$100-million budget? School spending increase to be discussed Monday night

A 5% projected budget increase would push Ridgefield’s public education costs close to the $100-million threshold for the 2019-20 school year.

Interim Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote plans to present her official 2019-20 budget proposal to the Board of Education Monday, Jan. 14, in the town hall annex at 7 p.m.

“I’m striving to get it below 5%, absolutely. And I’m hoping that we have some better numbers locked in before Jan. 14,” Paddyfote said.

A 5% increase for the schools would mean a total budget of $99,750,000.

Paddyfote noted that as the schools get closer to releasing the budget, “your numbers usually improve” as final costs are locked in by the district.

Costs for heating oil and electricity have not yet been met, she noted.

One area of risk is the district health insurance plan. Paddyfote said the schools are currently working with the assumption of a 7% increase in costs, but have heard that number could go up as high as 20%.

While the schools signed a new, three-year contract with the teachers’ union, which sets the cost of those salaries, three other agreements have to be reached with the custodians, secretaries, and paraeducators unions. If agreements are not reached, they may rollover into the next year, Paddyfote said.

The current estimate of a 5% increase includes a reduction of four teachers from East Ridge Middle School next year.

“My goal obviously is to get that budget down because I felt 5% was just too high,” Paddyfote said.

Budget breakdown

The schools have special meetings scheduled for various parts of the budget throughout the winter.

Elementary and middle school budgets will be discussed Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the town hall annex. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

There will be a meeting for the high school and its athletics budget Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the town hall annex beginning at 7 p.m.

Curriculum, facilities, and general services will be the subject at the board’s meeting Monday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. in the town hall annex.

Two days later on Wednesday, Jan. 30, the school board will discuss special education, pupil personnel, and technology budgets at the town hall annex beginning at 7 p.m.

In the event of snow, meetings will be held on the following day.

Public hearings

There are two public hearings scheduled in February that will focus primarily on the 2019-20 proposed budget.

The first will take place Saturday, Feb. 9, at Scotts Ridge Middle School beginning at 10 a.m.

The snow date for that hearing will be Saturday, Feb. 23, at 10 a.m.

The second will be held during the board’s meeting Monday, Feb. 11, in the town hall annex at 7 p.m., which will also be a general discussion on the budget by the Board of Education.

The board plans to hold a vote on the budget during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the town hall annex

While Paddyfote will present the budget on Jan. 14, she will no longer be superintendent when the board finally votes on Feb. 25.

Dr. William Collins will take over as the the district’s permanent superintendent Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Collins intends to visit the district before his transition to become familiar with the district and budget.