Inside Education: Explaining this year’s budget

Why did the Board of Education construct the 2017-18 proposed budget differently than in previous years?

The Connecticut state legislature imposed a new rule on towns this year to encourage the towns to minimize property tax increases. If towns propose a spending increase that’s more than 2.5%, the state will reduce the amount of money, the “Municipal Revenue Sharing Grant,” it sends back by 50 cents for every $1 that’s over the 2.5% limit. In 2017-18 Ridgefield will receive $512,848 under this program. The law permitted municipalities to exclude expenditures for debt service, special education, or implementing court orders or arbitration awards (the “carve-out”) from the total budget.

The proposed BOE operating budget was built to meet the 2.5% spending cap for everything apart from the “carve-out” costs of special education. The main drivers of the 2.5% increase are contractual obligations for salaries (about 30%) and health insurance (about 63%), with the balance representing targeted investments that will improve the delivery of education to Ridgefield’s children. The 2.5% is less than the board’s collective contractual commitment to employees because the board and administration built efficiencies into the budget through analysis of student enrollment and opportunities to reduce personnel staffing where enrollment numbers permitted. This type of analysis allows the board to simultaneously advance the level of quality education in Ridgefield, while demonstrating fiscal responsibility.

Special education was exempted by the legislature from the 2.5% spending cap because of the existing statutory framework that guides programming and funding for children with special needs.

The total requested year-to-year budget increase of 3.48% meets the needs of all of our students and incrementally advances the mission and vision of the school system.