Outgoing Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Villar presented an education budget that is nearly 3 percent higher than last year's to the Board of Education at Thursday night.
The proposed 2012-13 budget for Rocky Hill Public Schools is $30,192,498 which represents an increase of 2.99 percent or $876,352. The "major cost drivers" of the budget are salaries and health insurance, even though all and , Villar said. Salaries (71%), benefits (16%) and transportation (5%) account for 91% of the budget.
There was an increase of 7.24 percent in health insurance, however this increase is significantly lower than many municipalities in the area, according to Villar. There was also an increase in the retirement account and professional development.
One of the main focuses of the proposed budget is to continue to close the achievement gap between and schools. In the proposed budget, two reading coaches would be added to Stevens School and one teaching position, possibly from the third grade, would be eliminated from West Hill school. The reading coach would help teachers provide students with better instruction.
"Research will show us quality teachers and quality administrators make an impact," Villar stated. “I think we need a budget that will pass and the Town Council will support. I would be happy to dive back into this budget if that is the board’s decision.”
Board members Frank K. Morse and Brian Dillon did not agree with eliminating an elementary teacher at West Hill School so that two reading coaches could be added to Stevens staff. They wanted to add the reading coaches and keep the teacher at West Hill School.
“I don’t think we should be robbing from Peter to pay Paul,” Dillon said. “I don’t think we should take away valuable assets.”
Morse was also concerned about the impact eliminating a teacher would have on classroom sizes at West Hill School. Villar believed that the classrooms could expand from an average of 18 students to 21, which is still below the recommended limit.
The new budget would also call for the elimination of a 0.6 English teacher at
“It’s necessary, but it is less necessary,” Villar explained about the elimination.
A math supervisor, which was eliminated in previous budgets, would start in the middle of the school year and help develop curriculum under the proposed budget.
“The district needs that position,” Villar exclaimed. “This is really an important thing to consider.”
Morse said that he would be willing to have the math supervisor start at the beginning of the year instead of the middle and agreed the position is vital to the school system.
Villar said that 3 to 4 percent increases in school budgets were very common when he met with other superintendents earlier this month. He called his budget "very conservative," but said it contained what was needed to run the schools.
"The economic times have stunted innovation," Villar said. "You want to strive for excellence. And that means at some point, you have to invest more and there is an unrealistic expectation that you can always get a zero (budget increase) there. A zero every year means we would be going backwards."
Board member René “Skip” Rivard was impressed with the "bare bones" budget that Villar presented.
"We are looking pretty good this year," he said.