Superintendent Mark F. Zito has recommended that school spending increase $1.4 million next year, or 4.75 percent.
Zito outlined his $31.6 million budget, his first since coming to the district in July, at a meeting of the board of education's finance committee this week.
"We feel this is a pretty lean budget,'' he said. He noted that 75 percent of the projected increase is attributable to salaries– teachers are due raise next year after receiving no increase this year – and benefits, principally health insurance. Increases in special education and magnet school tuitions and transportation costs also contributed.
The budget projects 195 local students will enroll in area magnet schools next year, resulting in a 44 percent increase in district tuition costs. Board member Renee "Skip" Rivard suggested that a strategic plan be developed to examine why students were enrolling elsewhere.
"My sense is there are multiple variables there,'' Zito responded.
Two support positions added during the year – a residency officer and an instructional technology facilitator – were retained in the budget. Spending for instructional technology, including computers, wireless devices, Smart Boards and other enhancements will increase 11 percent.
There were a number of notable omissions as well.
While the high enrollment at West Hill and Stevens elementary schools, coupled with changes in the teacher evaluation process would justify adding assistant principals to both schools, those positions were not included. They would have added another one percent to the spending increase, Zito said.
The board has directed the superintendent to develop a pilot full-day kindergarten program for the district. One full-day class at each elementary would require a net increase of one teacher. The board would have to add the position if itchooses to go forward with the plan next year.
The superintendent's budget contains no specific recommendations for added security enhancements in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre.
Those will be contained in town budget that Town Manager Barbara R. Gilbert will present in the spring. Gilbert, Zito, Police Chief Michael Custer and other town and school personnel have been meeting to develop recommendations for security improvements. One of those under discussion is to assign a school resource officer, a specially trained police officer, to each of the district's four schools whenever they are in session, an approach Zito said he favors.
"Dr. Zito has taken every step he can to make every school in Rocky Hill as safe as can be. This is a team effort and he is leading the charge,'' Gilbert said.
Zito will present his budget to the full board on Jan. 17.