Darien schools eye 3 percent budget hike
DARIEN — When Darien schools return back from winter break, they will not only be focusing on a new year but a new budget.
Based on a five-year budget projection shared at a Nov. 28 meeting, the district is looking at a $98,953,248 budget, nearly a three percent increase from last year’s budget of around $95 million.
While the Board of Education is done meeting for the year, they will resume on Jan. 4 to begin budget discussions for the 2018-2019 budget year. Following the special meeting on Jan. 4, the board will have an all-day meeting on Saturday, Jan. 6 to discuss proposed budgets for personnel, operating and equipment.
At a regular meeting of the Board of Education on Nov. 28, Superintendent Dan Brenner said the budget this year will focus on maintaining and continuing current educational programs and facilities work.
“We’ve been accused of being a little bit aggressive with our rollout of initiatives over the past three years,” Brenner said. “In some ways, I think that’s fair. We’ve been doing a lot. Sometimes you need to pause and allow these initiatives to take hold. So I think next year a lot of what will be happening is we’ll be continuing a lot of this work you hear us talking about.”
Brenner said the district is planning on continuing their 1:1 technology rollout of iPads and Chromebooks to fifth graders. Fitch Academy, the district’s alternative high program which is currently in its first year, is also going to continue as a regular program after the board voted it out of its pilot phase. It is anticipated to be a large budget driver as Brenner looks for a new space to house the program.
In terms of personnel, Brenner said the district is looking to add a new guidance counselor at Middlesex Middle School after a proposal for one last year was passed over.
Brenner said he’d also be bringing in data to support the addition of an assistant athletic director. He said the district’s current Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia, is currently working weekends, holidays and evenings to keep up with an athletic program Brenner compared to that of a small college’s.
“I can tell you right now our athletic director last year worked in essence additional 80 events (over the previous year),” Brenner said.
According to the current board budget calendar, the board is set to approve a final budget at their meeting on Feb. 13.
“We’re in the middle of our budget process right now and by that I mean we’re in the middle of our data collection process,” said the Director of Finance Michael Feeney at the Nov. 28 meeting.
Further budget projections showed another nearly three percent increase in personnel budget, but a decrease in the district’s equipment budget from $785,847 to $724,575.