The News-Times

Schools’ $48.5M budget includes hiring

Proposed spending plan tops last year’s budget by $1.69M

- By Currie Engel

BROOKFIELD — The school superinten­dent’s budget includes a proposed 3.61 percent increase over last year, or another roughly $1.69 million, putting the district’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year at $48.5 million.

The school board held discussion­s, made several tweaks to line items, and adopted a budget during Wednesday night’s regular meeting.

The new proposed budget includes changes due to inflation, health benefits, contracts, a legally required elementary school bilingual teacher, investment­s to help phase in the American Rescue Plan funds items, and salaries for 4.5 new kindergart­en paraeducat­ors and a math interventi­onist, among other items.

“I am appreciati­ve of the Board’s leadership and support toward the adoption of the 20222023 school district plan and subsequent budget,” wrote Superinten­dent John Barile in an email to The News-Times.

Barile added he was especially excited about the new staff positions.

The budget includes a 3.1 percent increase in administra­tor salaries, a 3.9 increase for teaching staff, and a 15.5 increase for health staff.

Transporta­tion costs increased by about $160,000, and transporta­tion fuel by $59,000, or 46 percent. Oil and heat are expected to cost an additional $97,500 for the upcoming year, a nearly 50 percent increase from the last fiscal year.

Maintenanc­e supply costs increased by 131 percent from $19,800 to $45,750.

District officials propose cutting costs on maintenanc­e equipment and building repairs, and a copier lease, which will save $20,000. At least $42,000 will be cut from textbook costs this year compared with last year.

The budget is due to First Selectman Tara Carr by Jan. 31.

“Congratula­tions, all, on probably one of the most challengin­g parts of what we do as a board,” said board Chairman Bob Belden, before adding, “We do have more work to do.”

Tweaks and additional details

During Wednesday’s meeting, budget adjustment­s brought the initial proposed 4.24 percent increase down to 3.61 due to

several factors including lowerthan-expected costs for health benefits, ChromeBook­s, textbooks, and transporta­tion.

Prior to this final vote, a committee spent more than a month going line-by-line through the budget. Board member Rosa Fernandes said the group now “firmly stands behind” the budget.

“We’ve gone through it for the last month and a half, and it’s something that we can stand behind now,” Fernandes said.

Health benefits were initially slated to increase by around 7 percent, but the board was informed

that costs would result in more of a 4 percent increase, saving about $164,400 in the budget. The school also discovered its applicatio­n for hundreds of free ChromeBook­s had been granted, which means a total savings of $96,250.

While the school’s transporta­tion contract is still out for bid, the lowest qualified bidder at the moment came in lower than expected, allowing the board to bring down that cost by $9,370.

New or updated costs included an increase in sewer costs, tuition, and $16,200 for the hockey team.

During a public budget hearing, parents asked questions about the legal fee budget line and the $1,800 pay-to-play fee for Brookfield’s hockey team, the only sports team that students have to pay out of pocket to play on.

Barile said the board worked six years ago to eliminate “the long time district practice of ‘pay to participat­e’ for both athletics and after school activities.”

He said the expensive “ice time” for hockey meant that it was the one sport that families had to continue to pay a fee for students to play. Thanks to student interest in adding new sports, recent parent feedback, and board support, the district will no longer require hockey players to “pay to play,” according to Barile.

“None of this happens without a great team of people and a supportive board, supportive families and just an incredible faculty, staff and administra­tive team,” Barile said following the vote to approve and adopt the proposed superinten­dent’s budget. “I continue to be impressed by the work level, and the patience, and cooperatio­n, and flexibilit­y.”

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