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Fairfield School Board Digs into Superintendent's Budget

The board discussed the major drivers behind the increase in the budget and potential sources for revenue. The discussion will continue on Thursday.

The Fairfield Board of Education opened discussion Tuesday on the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget proposed by Superintendent Dr. David Title. The proposed plan carries a 4.86 percent  -- or $7.2 million -- increase over the current year's budget.

Prior to the board's discussion, board member Tim Kery provided a model that showed how the combined district and town budgets may impact taxes throughout the next 40 years. Assuming a budget increase of 4.5 percent year, Kery calculated that a 241 percent increase in taxes in 20 years and a 582 percent increase in taxes in 40 years.

'There's Going to Be a Cost That Will Be Hard for People to Afford'

He provided an alternate model in which the budget increased each year at 2 percent by 2 percent, which would result in a 149 percent increase after 20 years and a 221 percent increase in 40 years.

"It's a big struggle for me. I see value of everything we do for education, and then I look across the street and see my 90 year-old neighbor, who struggles to stay in his home," Kery said.

"The stark reality is, if we continue to do this [increase] every year, there's going to be a cost that will be hard for people to afford."

Vice Chair Pamela Iacono agreed.

"The message I'm hearing all around is we can't sustain this growth," she said. "As a board, we're going to have to make a decision on what [programs] we're going to offer and how we're going to offer it."

$5.4 Million Increase to Health Insurance Account

This year's driving force behind the increase had little to do with programming -- health insurance costs account for 75 percent of the $7.2 million.

"My concern is fixed costs that we have no control over," member Paul Fattibene said, referring to the health insurance account and other fixed costs, like salaries.

The proposed hike to the health insurance account is $5,431,206, bumping the total from $16,622,722 to $22,053,978, or by 33 percent -- the single largest increase in the Fiscal Year 14 budget.

There are many factors contributing to this figure, according to Title's explanation in the budget book. The components include the beginning fund balance, other sources of revenue, projected expenses, and a sufficient ending balance to cover incurred but not reported claims, known as IBNR.

Higher-than-expected claims, federal mandates, and an increase cost of services also added to the decision to contribute $5.4 million to the fund, Title said last week when he presented the budget.

The superintendent explained Tuesday that this bump is expected to be a one-year spike to properly fund the account and increases thereafter should be incremental.

Kery said that the board does not have "the knowledge or information to make an informed decision" on the proposed contribution to the fund or the budget in its entirety. The most recent information the school board has on the town and district's internal service fund is updated through June 30, 2012, which was well before the budget was presented.

A status of the fund through November or even December 2012 should be made available to the board prior to their vote on the budget on Tuesday, Jan. 29, Kery said, so that members can be sure the health insurance account isn't over- or underfunded.  

Other Driving Factors to Budget Increase

The board also discussed salaries -- which have increased by 0.83 percent due to contractual raises for teachers and administrators -- the food service pension fund, and sources of income.

The budget for the district's pension/retirement account was bumped by $571,167 for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, with $50,000 of that increase allocated to the pension costs for the school lunch program. The school lunch program is self-sustaining and funds its base costs through the meals sold in the districts, but it could not absorb the projected pension increase for its employees, Title said.

Sources of Revenue for District, Town

Projected income for the district in Fiscal Year 2013-2014 is $6,722,608 and will come in the form of state and federal aid, summer school tuition, food service reimbursement, musical instrument rentals, reimbursement from the Fairfield Education, out-of-town tuition for special education students, preschool tuition, parking fees, and custodial fees.

Board members discussed some options for increasing revenues. John Convertito raised the idea of the organizations running daycare and afterschool programs in the schools paying a custodial fee to cover the differential costs the district incurs.  

"I don't want to charge them astronomical amounts, I just want to cover our differential costs," Convertito said.

Title mentioned that the district in conjunction with the town may impose a new building rental fee structure come the start of the new fiscal year. Building fee revenue goes to the town but a plan may be in the works to offer a discounted fee to organizations that pay up front. According to Title, it takes some time to collect fees from groups after they rent space in the schools, because they often raise the money for the rental fee as part of their fundraiser or event.

The board will meet again to discuss the budget on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Board of Education Conference Room (501 Kings Highway East, second floor). The budget is scheduled to be adopted on Tuesday, Jan. 29

Alrick H Man IV January 23, 2013 at 12:05 PM
This will increase my taxes to $27000 by 2050 or there abouts
Alrick H Man IV January 23, 2013 at 12:08 PM
That is from around $5000 today
Jim Eastwood January 23, 2013 at 12:55 PM
They had better "Dig Into their Budget " I am tired of them "Digging :" into my wallet !!! Stop with the "Labor Costs" How about looking at the Administrative Costs ???? Have a Great Day (and Just Pay and Pay your taxes !!!)
cheers January 23, 2013 at 01:43 PM
Who is looking out for the homeowners/taxpayers of Fairfield as a priority? Is it the job of the First Selectman? If not, who? If there is no one solely looking out for our interests (other interests have their dedicated lobbyists) then do we not need to obtain a representative who is not tainted by political necessity?
Jane S. January 23, 2013 at 06:03 PM
hmmmm...I read a post about looking into the town surplus fund, the one that should be used for that rainy day...the one that can be used, that then would not increase taxes, the taxes in this town are not in line to the services and support that its residents get compared to other towns...might be something to look into...or at least maybe the PATCH could do a story on that funding resource & explain what it is for if not for something like this...
Mike Dixin January 23, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I am planning to move to S Carolina / Georgia in the next year. Hope you enjoy paying for this buracracy.
Sean O'Donnell January 23, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Everyone on the Public Sector payroll, is provided for immensely by the Private Sector, unrepresented "TAX SLAVES". Lobby-Lawmaking creates a "Ponzi Democracy". Citizens, its Time to Wake Up !
lbh January 23, 2013 at 06:54 PM
My monthly income dropped at the start of 2013 by $240 for Federal Taxes. It may not seem like much but in reality it is about a month's worth of gas. If the Federal government is taking more and the State of Connecticut is taking more and the town of Fairfield wants more, I am not sure what I have left? Does Dr. Title think we all have job perks like he does and make what he makes?
Sean O'Donnell January 23, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Politicians serve only one purpose, and that is, the preservation, enrichment and empowerment of themselves, and their cronies. They pretend to have our best interests at hearth, when in fact, They are so rich and so far removed from us that they could not recognize our best interests, if you beat them over the head with them.
Alrick H Man IV January 23, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Where do all these budget increases when all our houses are shuttered in forclosure?
Ajack January 24, 2013 at 02:45 PM
This kind of spending will ruin this town. The Fairfield P & Z actually facilitates the removal of the middle class from Fairfield, works to help to drive the middle class out, by allowing all of these McMansions to be built in middle class neighborhoods. The value of your home suddenly becomes the value of your land less the house value ( it will be torn down ). Think about it. To help pay these out of control salaries and perks. . The town wants them to be built and encourages development like this to help generate more taxes ( a little self aggrandizement here) .The government agencies keep putting pressure on the town for more money. Where will it come from? Take a look at your neighborhood. Has it changed dramatically in the last 15 years? Quietly nefariously our town government has been allowing this to happen. A slow crime . We are beginning to cannibalize ourselves. Thank God we can move if we so desire ( for now anyway). That may change in the future. Government for the people....... not at the people.
steve sheppard January 24, 2013 at 09:01 PM
First stop building "pretty to look at" schools. Any school building improvement should not be done unless it lowers the operating cost of running that school. Next streamline the administrative side of the BOE. From my understanding the percentage increase since 2000 is up 18% which is the same percentage increase of the school population. Have teachers and BOE pay a higher percentage of their healthcare costs. There are ways to collect revenue, such as charge students a fee for parking their cars on school grounds etc.
Ajack January 24, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Just learned that Dr. Title is being paid $100,000 more that the next highest paid superintendent......in the ENTIRE STATE! I also remember Mr. Phil Dwyer being challenged at the We The People meeting about the qualifications of the board members to evaluate and recommend the new math curriculum. He staunchly and with a bit of what smacked of arrogance, defiantly stated that, yes they, the board, were very qualified to make decisions. Seems their decision on hiring this man was based on spending 60% more than any other town in the state!!!!. By spending 60% more for a person to run our school system ...how does that show that your qualified to make meaningful and astute spending decisions on other issues? This scares the living junk out of me. Pay for all town employees has to be reflective of what is happening in the private sector...plain and simple. This town acts like a deer in the headlights....stunned...when anyone talks about this... Our system has to change. We ain't getting what we are paying for in taxes. The School System along with the firefighters and the police along with many other town employees , not all employees, have it way too good in relation to what is happening in the private sector. There is NO MECHANISM in place, when we are in one of these long protracted recessions, that will curb costs. Pay freezes, even cuts in pay, should have been implemented for three years after the 2007 banking fiasco. NOTHING IN PLACE! Self serving decisions.
Ajack January 25, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Steve. Our schools have become monuments to 'how good I was as an administrator or board member' which helps them justify their tax grabbing.There will be a tipping point, it's coming shortly, when high public school spending, out of control high college costs, will push us into a form of virtual education for many. Probably not bad, if done right. Why spend $15,000.00 a student per year, when they can get a high school education for about $4,000.00 a year through a virtual school. Fairfield Special Education already is using this form 'education' for some of it's students. How successful and how well tracked their 'current' experiment has been is questionable. Their motives are very transparent and self serving. Give less and call it more to 'cut that budget to the bone' right Dr. Title? Apparently the Special Education Administration head is doing it only to save money not because it's now a terribly effective form of education, not yet anyway, for kids who need tutors, actual live teachers needed to help them get through illness and other situations that don't allow them to attend brick & mortar schools.Tutors= expensive virtual school = cheap. If these virtual students don't need expensive personal contact, why bother with physical teachers in any classroom. Image the cost savings to the tax payers in this town. 75% of the budget goes for salary and perks alone. $29,000,000.00 a year for just 'teachers' as opposed to $118,000,000.00 a year. No need for buildings too
TJC January 25, 2013 at 01:32 PM
I think that's pretty far off.
herewegoagain January 25, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Please get your facts straight...http://nhregister.com/news/superintendents/ Yes, Dr. Title is paid a lot, but NOT $100,000 more than the next supt in CT, so please stop perpetuating these ridiculous claims. He makes a lot, but he has an enormous district to deal with. In the chart I reference above, please look at the cost/student as well. And the #s are off for enrollment (we are at 10,200), so the cost is even less.
fully involved January 26, 2013 at 02:19 PM
BOARD OF ED MEMBERS ARE VOLUNTEERS WITHOUT PAY GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT
fully involved January 26, 2013 at 02:22 PM
You should stop posting until you get your facts straight and stop assuming
Ajack January 27, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Please excuse my error. I meant to say higher than the next highest employee in our town.Please excuse the mistake. Still a lot of money. The Governor of our state makes $150,000.00 a year and he has an even bigger enormous district to deal with .....the whole state! That's not 10,000 plus students , it's a population of over 3,500,000 . Even the Vice President of the Unites States makes less than Dr. Title at $230,000 a year. The pay does not fit the responsibilities.Connecticut's budget is far more complex and intricate with problems that make what our over paid administrators have to contend with pale by comparison. The Vice President , well his responsibility are huge. The salaries paid to our town employees are ridiculous.

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