School board bumps budget request .5%

The 2019-20 school budget request that lands on First Selectman Vicki Tesoro’s desk will be slightly higher than the $107.5 million package that School Supt. Gary Cialfi requested last month. The Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a slightly higher budget proposal of just under $108 million at last week’s meeting. That amount represents an increase of about 4.3% over the current year. Cialfi’s original proposal was for a 3.88% funding boost.

School Board Chairman Loretta Chory

Board Chairman Loretta Chory said the increase was strictly due to the cost of health insurance.

“The original amount [Cialfi] budgeted was based on a 5%projected increase in our policy amount,” Chory said. “But the plans are coming back somewhere between 7.2% and 8%, so we went with the higher numbers, knowing the Town Council or Board of Finance can reduce it in the future.”

The other factor driving up the cost of health coverage is the mix of employees using the plan. Even if the number of employees remains constant, the employees could get married, have a child, or opt onto a spouse’s plan. All of these changes would affect the overall insurance costs, Chory said.

Board member Kathleen Fearon proposed adding about $375,000 to the budget. About $100,000 would have been allocated to hire a safe school climate district coordinator. The rest would have gone toward transportation costs to allow for a later start times. Neither of those motions received a second and thus were shelved.

“I think both of those are good questions to put forth, but a little more study needs to be made on both of themk,” Chory said.

Cialfi has been working with an outside consultant to study start times, and the board is awaiting the results of that study, Chory said.

“Trumbull’s a complicated district, not just with the number of students we have,” she said. ‘There is also the Agriscience Center, RCA (Regional Center for the Arts), the aquaculture school, all the places we get students from. I really would like to wait and hear what the superintendent recommends.”

As far as adding a safe school coordinator, Chory deferred to Cialfi’s judgment that the district had sufficient staff in place.

The budget now moves on to First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, who can change the total but not individual line items. Tesoro has until March 1 to submit her 2019-20 budget request to the Board of Finance.