New Milford school board discusses budget
Published 1:57 pm, Thursday, November 30, 2017
NEW MILFORD — The school board is getting a jump on the budget process by considering possible drivers now so curriculum and budget needs can be weighed before hard numbers are presented this winter.
The items highlighted at Monday’s school board meeting, which included the potential impact of new legislation and the option of introducing funding cycles, had been discussed individually at separate committee meetings.
But Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith said he wanted to bring them all before the board again so they can be discussed before the brief window often available for budget deliberations.
“We wanted to start now and put some bread crumbs out there of what we’re talking about,” Smith said.
Smith and some board members warned the drivers won’t necessarily increase the school district’s budget because it’s possible savings could be identified through the preliminary discussions.
“Some of these issues may add to the budget but through these conversations we could determine deficiencies,” said board member Wendy Faulenbach. She said the board will have to determine its priorities.
In special education, which makes up about 22 percent of the budget, Smith said internal changes may be possible to address any problems that arise with funding.
“We know the social and emotional needs are shifting,” he said.
Another issue is the need for an additional bilingual teacher at the high school, Smith said.
The district could see added costs because of the new expulsion law, which requires boards to set new regulations for expelled students.
Most districts will be expected to have alternative programs that offer a full-time, comprehensive experience that provides the same amount of time for instruction and learning the student would receive in a regular classroom environment.
Another possible regulation change would affect the credits and classes students need to complete to graduate, a change that has been delayed annually for several years. Among the big changes would be a required capstone project and the requirement for more language courses.
“The high school graduation (changes) could be a budget driver but it could also be the can that keeps getting kicked down the road,” said board member J.T. Schemm.
Smith said the district should create replacement cycles for funding certain projects, such as playground maintenance and asbestos abatement.
“We’re not proactive in that,” he said. “We wait until something breaks.”