Ridgefield superintendent proposes $107.4 million spending plan for schools

RIDGEFIELD — The Board of Education recently got its first glance at Superintendent Susie Da Silva’s proposed budget for the upcoming school year.

The $107.4 million spending plan is an increase of 4.9 percent over the previous fiscal year. It reflects significant increases in supplies and equipment, special education and other miscellaneous costs.

Salaries and employee benefits account for almost 80 percent of the total proposed budget.

The 42 percent increase in supplies and equipment from the previous year is a result of inflation “across all domains,” Da Silva said. The budget lines comprise instructional materials, standardized testing materials, office and cleaning supplies and building, curriculum and athletics equipment.

The 19 percent increase in special education outplacement and tuition costs from the previous year is based on the district’s growing population of students with special needs, which increased by almost 40 students this past fall, Da Silva said.

She expects the district could service up to 25 new students with individualized education program plans in fiscal year 2023.

“It’s important to note that Ridgefield is required to provide comparable services in these circumstances,” Da Silva added. “To provide further context, the average cost of a student with an (individualized education plan) is two to two and a half times the (standard) per pupil (cost).”

The proposed budget also includes multiple staffing requests to support students with special needs, including: a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a special education reading teacher to service both middle schools and special education teachers at the preschool and high school levels.

A series of proposed staffing reductions would yield $100,000 worth of savings within the proposed budget while providing an administrative restructure that better targets the district’s needs, Da Silva said.

“Like fiscal year 2022, 2023 will continue to work on the foundation and assured experiences,” she added. “Continuing in this budget is … our plan to review the curriculum and resources across content areas pre-K to 12 … (and) supporting students academically and emotionally.”

One of the priorities of the proposed budget is addressing students’ mental health needs. Considering children returned to schools in person for the first time since March 2020 this past fall, research and school-based data show their academic gains — as well as social-emotional wellness — were negatively impacted as a result, Da Silva said.

The superintendent also noted some cost mitigation included in the proposed budget, including a $120,000 reduction in transportation and a 3 percent cap on insurance expenses.

The public is invited to attend an all-day board budget workshop on Saturday starting at 8:45 a.m. More information can be found on the district’s website.