UPDATED: Iassogna requests 4.75% school budget increase

The $95.6-million budget request Superintendent Ralph Iassogna delivered to the school board Tuesday night maintains class sizes and fosters a safe and positive learning environment while seeking cost savings wherever possible, Iassogna said.

In delivering his request to the board, Iassogna said the budget proposal for the 2013-14 school year already had undergone extensive review at the school and administrative level, which resulted in more than $2 million in reductions.

"This final recommendation reflects my best judgment of what is needed to address the basic needs of our students while enabling the district to operate responsibly and safely," Iassogna said. "It is important to note that I was most cognizant of the state of our economy and the onerous burden placed on local and state taxpayers and that the district has the responsibility, without compromising student needs, to implement methods and approaches that achieve efficiencies wherever possible."

The budget proposal represents a 4.75% increase over the current $91.3-million budget, or an increase of $4.3 million. Of that increase, more than $2.6 million is earmarked for salaries and benefits. Health benefits in particular are projected to rise 8% this year.

Project Catapult, a technology initiative tied to a state-mandated three-year technology plan, represents another $643,000 of the increase and special education tuition costs another $375,000. All other programs represent a total of $635,682, or .7% of the total budget.

In his presentation Iassogna cited statistics showing that Trumbull spends less per pupil than many comparable towns. The state classifies towns into Demographic Resource Groups based on various ecomomic and social factors. Trumbull's per-pupil spending as of 2011, the most recent year with published budgets, was $12,695. Other communities in Trumbull's DRG include Fairfield ($14,380), Orange ($14,001), Guilford ($13,562), and Madison ($13,007). Trumbull spends more than DRG peers Cheshire ($12,523), Avon ($12,318) and Newtown ($12,072).

Iassogna said the Trumbull school system gets maximum "bang for its buck," and listed a series of recent accomplishments, including a score of 9 out of 10 from Family Circle, a fifth-place ranking in Connecticut Magazine and the fact that 94% of students continue their education after graduating from Trumbull High.

Next year, the school system is projecting a decrease of 74 students, to 6,882. Most of the decrease is at the middle school level, where the administration projects a 66-student decrease, to 1,570. Trumbull High is projected to enroll 2,207 students, three more than this year.

The reduction in students allowed the system to reduce teacher staff by two at the sixth-to-eighth grade level, but that savings is offset by a projected 8% increase in health insurance rates. Iassogna also anticipates 10 teachers retiring, a net savings of about $288,300 over their replacements. The school bus contract also expires this year, and Iassogna projected a 3.25% increase in transportation costs.

Iassogna requested new funds for Project Catapult and a series of facility upgrades for the athletics department. The athletics upgrades included resurfacing the football field at Trumbull High, which athletic director Michael Herbst said is worn out and nearing the limits of player safety, upgrading the track around the football field and resurfacing the school's tennis courts. The upgrades would cost more than $1 million, but Iassogna said the cost would be presented to the town as a bonding project.