Schools Superintendent Proposes 5 Percent Increase in Spending

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi on Monday night proposed an operating budget for the district of $84,912,121 in fiscal year 2016—a 5 percent increase over current spending.

The figure is driven mainly by staffing costs tied to rising enrollment—especially in teacher salaries (65 percent) and benefits (17 percent), Luizzi said during the Board of Education’s regular meeting.

Citing district-wide enrollment, which is expected to rise next year by about 40, and then steadily increase through 2021, Luizzi said the proposed teacher salaries anticipate additional staffers: two classroom teachers for the seventh grade, one additional K-4 teacher, two supervisory aides at Saxe, one custodian at the middle school and a part-time district-wide social worker.

“To be fully understood, we need to understand that [the proposed budget] is comprised of multiple drivers, that some are obligatory and some are discretionary,” Luizzi said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “Those drivers are significant numbers. They do drive the percentage of where we are.”

In New Canaan as elsewhere, most local taxes go to the district—about two-thirds here. Luizzi’s proposed operating budget calls for a year-over-year increase of about $4 million. Here’s a look at how that proposed increase breaks down:

Breaking Down the $4,041,563 Proposed Operating Budget Increase FY16

DescriptionTotalPercentage
Insurance$1.6 million40%
Salaries$1,327,51533%
Excess Cost Funding$600,000**15%
Electricity$150,0004%
Pool Rental$80,0002%
Remainder/Other$284,0487% (of increase, and about .4% of current overall spending)
*Source: New Canaan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi at the Jan. 5, 2015 Board of Education meeting.

**This figure results mainly from a new way of accounting for out-of-district costs (see article).

 

Luizzi noted that teacher salaries in New Canaan are competitive while still in line with other area districts. Here’s a table that looks at salaries here and in nearby districts (article continues below):

Teacher Salary Comparisons 2014-15

 BA (1st step)BA (top step)MA (1st step)MA (top step)MA+30 (1st step)MA+60 (top step)
Rank (out of 7)44 6342
New Canaan$47,709$74,265$52,162$100,530$56,614$113,841
Greenwich$53,645$89,328$59,365$105,037$65,092$119,174
Weston$49,564$69,258$54,410$97,468$59,356$110,260
Westport$48,670$81,462$52,244$98,632$56,522$112,132
Wilton$47,240$68,462$52,495$93,264$56,580$108,267
Darien$45,334$63,918$51,764$102,358$55,606$110,522
Ridgefield$46,439$76,277$52,475$88,505$57,585$111,257
Bedford, NY$64,372$113,378$67,660$116,946$70,733$126,466
* Source: New Canaan Superintendent of Schools

 

Two notes on the proposed budget:

  • This initial presentation from Luizzi—and it still must undergo revision from the full school board prior to going to the selectmen—represents a far lower proposed increase than what went to the selectmen one year ago, a 7 percent rise.
  • Out-of-district tuition is expected to rise 22 percent, or $600,000, to about $3.3 million, according to Luizzi. The figure is somewhat misleading, as it represents a gross cost without excess cost reimbursement from the state (which had been calculated into the line item in past years).

Luizzi in his nearly 3-hour presentation put a spotlight on New Canaan Public Schools’ high performance and benchmarks, commitment to students and focus on long-range goals. (We will link here to a full copy of Luizzi’s presentation as soon as it is available on the public schools’ website.)

The school board accepted Luizzi’s proposed budget unanimously, thanking the first-year superintendent for so speedily wrapping his arms around complex district costs, and will return with amendments at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Board members asked how the cost of staffing an additional custodian compared to projected overtime costs at current levels, and also wondered whether funding for more teachers should be requested in order to meet the district’s own class size guidelines.

Vice Chair Scott Gress noted that enrollment projects for next year at the elementary school level (particularly in next year’s third grade) are expected to exceed the district’s own guidelines on class size—see table below.

Told that in order to get comfortably within its own guidelines, the district would need four additional classroom teachers, Gress said: “What is the rationale for not asking for enough teachers to stay within our guidelines? … If we have guidelines that we think are justifiable and proper to educate our children and it’s going to take more teachers, I would rather ask the town for four more teachers and let them say ‘No you have to exceed your guidelines’ than choose to ignore our own advice going in.”

New Canaan Public Schools: 2015-16 Projected Average Class Size (Partial)

SchoolKindergarten1st Grade2nd Grade3rd Grade4th Grade
East1919192120
South1819191921
West1919192121
* Source: NESDEC Estimates, as presented by the Superintendent of Schools on Jan. 15, 2015

** Class Size Guidelines:
Grades K-3: 16 to 20 pupils
Grades 4-8: 20 to 24 pupils

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