WALLINGFORD — After making some alterations, the Board of Education passed the 2023-24 budget at a Wednesday night meeting.
In total, the budget request will be $117,318,278, a 6.752 percent increase from the current year’s budget. This budget is a combination of the sustained services budget and the strategic budget.
Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi presented the proposed budgets on Jan. 18. Her initial proposed sustained services budget was $116,397,236, which is a 5.91 percent increase from the current year. On Wednesday, the board members and central office administrators adjusted the budget to include a new rate for the oil, along with flat funding the natural gas accounts.
Dominic Barone, business manager for Wallingford Public Schools, said flat funding these accounts means not increasing the budget. This would decrease the budget by $108,000.
“Leave the budget the same as it is for the current year,” Barone said.
The board then decided to increase the contingency fund from $93,972 to $500,000.
Board member Kathy Castelli said the contingency fund’s purpose is to be used on unexpected expenses.
“There’s never been a contingency below $100,000,” said Michael Votto, board member.
“It was always pretty steep, certainly not $93,000,” he added.
Therefore, the board decided to pass the updated sustained services budget, which is a 6.062 percent increase. In total, it is $116,559,264. Last year, the Board of Education passed a sustained services budget of $111,921,263.Strategic budget
The Board of Education decided to increase the strategic plan from Bellizzi’s original proposal of $327,668 to $759,014 in order to possibly get more money from the Town Council and the mayor, if they ask for a larger budget.
“The more items we can put in there, the more room we potentially have if they come back and cut some of the funding,” said Donna Regan, chairperson of the operations committee. “So if we ask for 10%, and I’m just making up numbers, and they come back and say no, you can only have eight, we do have some room within there.”
The board came up with the figure by adding up seven of the items Bellizzi and the central office administrators deemed as priority strategic items. Three of these items will be tucked away to be funded through a $250,000 settlement the district will receive from Durham School Services after the district ended its contract with them last year.
However, the board said that once the Town Council and the mayor come back with a figure, the board can still pick and choose which items they decide to use the funding for.
“The council and the mayor do not cut a specific item from our budget,” Castelli said. “They just give us a figure. It’s ours to do with as we please, so whatever that figure is, then we come back and that’s when the work really begins to say, ‘What are we spending this money on that we got?’”
One item that the board did include in the figure is a set of instructional coaches, which is something the central office administrators have been wanting funding for over the past few years. However, some board members shared their reasons as to why they do not support the funding for the coaches.
“Our test scores are not reflective of what we have so far,” said Jennifer Passaretti, board member. “We went through this all last year and I’ve heard all of the explanations as to why central office feels that they are important … My mind has not been changed in the last 12 months.” Capital items
The last item that the board took consensus on was capital improvement projects. The board went through a list of items Bellizzi and central office administrators said were top priorities.
After much discussion, board members decided they will share with the mayor the entire list of eight items, prioritizing four items — Sheehan High School’s turf and track, Lyman Hall High School’s softball field, Pond Hill Elementary School’s gymnasium floor and four light poles at Sheehan High School.
Castelli said she supported submitting the entire list so the mayor “is aware” of projects the district leaders are looking to get done.
“We’re not doing him any service by not telling him these are important things for us, tell us what you can give us,” Castelli said.
The amount the board will be requesting is $2,927,000.Next steps
Bellizzi will have a meeting with Mayor William Dickinson Jr. on March 8 to go over the board-approved budget.
Then, by April 1, the mayor will call Bellizzi with a number.
“It’s a percentage and a dollar amount that he gives me and he also lets me know if he is going to recommend any of the capital items we may have suggested,” Bellizzi said. “I come back to all of you and we take a look at how we want to allocate.”
“We meet in the month of April to go back and then figure out how we’re going to meet what the mayor is recommending for the presentation with the Town Council,” she added.