Weston superintendent proposes $2.06M budget increase

Weston Superintendent William Mckersie presented his budget proposal in a virtual Board of Education meeting on Thursday. Taken Jan. 7, 2021.

Weston Superintendent William Mckersie presented his budget proposal in a virtual Board of Education meeting on Thursday. Taken Jan. 7, 2021.

DJ Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — Superintendent William Mckersie is proposing a $56.2 million schools budget for next fiscal year , which represents a 3.81 percent — or $2.06 million — increase from the current year.

“The leadership team is pleased to bring you a budget that is quite efficient, we think very, very effective towards maintaining and advancing the excellence, the rigor, the equity, the compassion that has been the signature of Weston schools for so long,” Mckersie said at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The district’s proposed capital budget request is nearly $898,000 and includes several improvements at the schools.

Schools Finance Director Phillip Cross said 78 percent of the proposed schools budget was due to salaries and benefits. Salaries alone are 59.7 percent of the budget at nearly $33.6 million, up $503,000 from the current year.

“Of the remaining other categories, other services will account of the next significant allocation percentage at 11 percent,” Cross said.

Other services is budgeted at $6.4 million, up about $534,00 from the previous year. The district’s transportation costs at about $61,500 and special education transportation costs at nearly $16,900 contributed to this increase, Cross said.

Kenneth Craw, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the budget looks to have the district focus on three major areas: a healthy learning environment; diversity, equity and inclusion; and teaching and learning.

“In Weston we truly have a comprehensive program and this budget supports all the things we’ve built in the past several years,” Craw said.

District principals also highlighted various cost savings at each level due to enrollment projections. Weston Middle School is expected to move from nine sections of seventh grade to eight sections, saving 0.8 full time employment, or FTE. Weston High School is requesting 1.4 FTE less than the previous year.

“We have reallocated staffing in a way, I believe, that is very effective,” said Lisa Wolak, Weston High School’s principal.

Cross said administration acknowledged the fiscal responsibility to the town and so looked to make some staffing cuts this year.

“We truly do take a deep look at every line item that we have so we can come up with a budget that is truly fiscally responsible and truly meets the needs of the district,” he said.

BOE members questioned how students’ progress was being measured and if there was a way to gauge if additional resources were needed.

Laura Kaddis, principal of Hurlbutt Elementary, said teachers are seeing growth and progress with their students despite there being a slight dip earlier in the school year.

“Our students are very well on track to finish successfully this year,” she said. “We are still gathering data throughout the year and continue to do so, but I feel very positive where our students are and where they will finish at the end of the school year.”

Mckersie said school staff was very well positioned to identify and address concerns of students’ progress during the pandemic. He added administration was proud the proposed budget did not cut too far into staffing.

“It’s a lean number but it does not touch any of those core talents, capacities and roles,” he said. “But it allows us to really answer that fundamental question.”

The BOE will workshop the budget throughout the month and is expected to approve it on Jan. 26 or 28.