Superintendent proposes ‘starting point’ school budget increase of $1.8 million

In the earliest stages of budget deliberation, where “everything can change,” school superintendent Thomas McMorran announced a starting point budget increase for the 2018-19 school year for grades K to 8, of $1,862,334.

This is an increase from the 2017-2018 school year budget —which was $20,752,623 — of 8.97%, to total $22,614,957.

At Redding’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2, McMorran said, “We are at the beginning of a deliberative two month process of determining the appropriate budgeting request for the 2018-2019 school year.”

At the meeting, McMorran referred to a starting point budget as a “point of departure,” which, he explained is “that dollar amount that you know you’re going to be moving away from to find the right amount that the town can support.”

He said the task of the Board of Education Is to put together an itemized estimate of the cost of maintenance of the public schools.

“It is not a price tag to the dollar, and it can’t be,” he said. “It’s our projection of what we think we’ll need to run the schools.”

Factors that will go into determining the budget will include class size, breath of programming, and courses that will be offered, he explained.

The itemized estimate then goes to the Redding Board of Finance, which will give the Board of Education feedback on its structure and on the elements that are not directly educational and then the Board of Education will have a chance to respond.

McMorran said all of the financial needs in the budget are divided into chapters, including kindergarten, general instruction, curriculum, food services and special education.

Questions to be considered when deciding upon a budget include:

  • How do we finance the general faculty and the paraprofessional support?
  • How do we maintain the buildings, provide nursing, libraries, technology, transportation, and food?
  • How do we pay for extracurricular programs?

He explained that the budget is further divided into “objects,” such as salaries for certified- and non-certified educators, as well as property insurance, textbooks, heating oil, snow plowing services, and standardized testing.

“When we look at all of the costs tallied up with all of the different objects in the budget, we will be able to show you the total cost — the difference between this year and what is currently projected,” McMorran said.

“Our task is to find if any of those differences can be brought down and which have to be maintained — and so that’s why we want to take our time to take several sessions to go through the budget,” he said.

There are certain items in the budget that the schools will request less funding in the coming years than exist in the current year, he explained.

He again reiterated that this is not the amount that is being requested. It is just where the budget stands as of the end of December.

“We don’t want to have a wish list,” he said, when referring to the administration.

“What the administrators have been asked to put in is what they feel will be ideal in the construction of a budget, but they understand that there will be tradeoffs and that’s the process of negotiating,” he said.

He said that the biggest changes in the budget will be

from salary, with the other driver being medical insurance costs for both certified and non-certified staff.

There are 102 teachers built into the budget and 71 support staff.

He explained that if “the big ticket item” in education is people, “the way to get the budget down is to have fewer people working for you,” he said. “However, if we are going to reduce faculty, we will have to think about the programs attached to the faculty.”

He said that the task of the Board of Education, along with the administration, “is to find a point where you say this is what we think the town can afford, which also meets our needs to keep up with it.”

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