Cialfi seeks 3.8% school budget hike

Trumbull school Superintendent Gary Cialfi is seeking just over $4 million in additional funding for the 2019-20 school year, under the proposed budget submitted to the Board of Education at its Dec. 6 meeting.

Cialfi proposed an overall school budget of $107.5 million, an increase of 3.88% over the current year’s budget of $103.5 million. He said he was confident this allocation would allow the schools to meet their goal of providing for the academic, social and emotional needs of students in a safe and comfortable environment.

In his 27-page introduction, Cialfi acknowledged the ever-increasing cost of education, but stressed the return on investment that Trumbull gets from its school system.

“The mission is to provide resources utilized judiciously for continuous and sustained improvement from one year to the next, as we reflect on the following examples of the staff and students’ exemplary performance,” he wrote. Among the examples of high achievement, he wrote that Trumbull students scored #9 in Connecticut on the Smarter Balanced Achievement Test, every public school in town has been named a School of Distinction in the past four years, and that Trumbull has been named to the College Board’s Advanced Placement Honor Roll.

“I am ever vigilant of the tax burden,” he said. I am also acutely aware of the unprecedented competition our students face as they enter the college and/or career arena. We have an enormous responsibility, an obligation to educate without compromising student needs.”

Among the changes in the annual budget are the projected 8.23% increase in healthcare costs due to higher rates and increased participation, and an anticipated 89-student bump in enrollment, to 6,810.

On the cost-saving side are the expected retirement of nine teachers, at a savings of $270,000, and energy savings through infrastructure upgrades and solar array installments that have driven energy costs down from $2.4 million in 2014-15 to $1.7 million last year.

In total numbers, salaries and benefits represents by far the largest chunk of the budget, at 83.5% or $89.8 million. This is an increase of 4.54%, or $3.9 million over the current year. All other areas of the budget combined to account for the remaining $118,000 of the proposed budget increase.

In his staffing analysis, Cialfi requested 3.6 additional teaching positions. This breaks down as one part-time (0.6 equivalent) world language teacher at Trumbull High, and one additional teacher each at Booth Hill, Jane Ryan, Daniels Farm and Tashua elementary schools. One English language learner teaching position has been removed from the budget request because that position is to be funded by a grant next year. Non-teaching staff remains at its current levels, including 65 maintenance, nine tech support and 47 secretarial positions. In addition the school system staff includes 162 paraprofessionals and aides, a number unchanged from the current year.

The budget also includes salary increases ranging from just over 1% to 6% for various staff members. The superintendent’s salary will remain at $218,811, unchanged for the past three years. The elementary school principals will each receive a 4% pay increase, to $171,117. The principals and assistant principals at the middle schools and high school also will receive salary hikes ranging from just over 4% at Hillcrest Middle School to 8.4% at Madison. Some of these increases may be misleading, though, since they are part of a contract that covers multiple years. Others, such as Cialfi's, are the same as the current year's approved budget since the contract is reviewed after the budget season ends.

The Board of Education has scheduled three budget sessions, concluding Dec. 13.