Budget – Frequently Asked Questions 2018

What is the proposed tax increase?

The education budget is three parts:

  • Operating – 2.05% which is only $657,500 on a $33 million budget. This is after cuts of $1.3 million from their original request. There are about 6,100 households so that averages to about $9 per month per household.
  • Capital – increase of $107,000 primarily for technology
  • Debt Service – increase of $668,000 due to new high school

Total increase for all three parts would only cost the average household $20 per month.

What is driving the increase?

  • Contractual Salaries – $42,729
  • Employee Benefits – $206,596
  • Transportation – $211,869
  • Out of district, special education tuition – $112,739
  • Other – $83,572

Why do budgets go up when enrollment goes down?
If transportation costs increase 8% and we cut 3% of the teachers you still have a 5% increase. The district has aggressively reduced staff in response to enrollment declines. Next year enrollment is projected to decline 40 students and the budget includes a reduction of 6 classroom teachers. Over a four year period the district will have eliminated 19 teaching positions, 8 paraprofessional positions, 1 secretary and 1.5 custodians. Nevertheless, fixed costs such as transportation and utilities, as well as highly variable costs such as special education and employee benefits that can increase over 10% in one year contribute to a change in budget that is greater than zero.

Is there a surplus?
No. Last year’s surplus was $2,804. That is 0.008% on a $36 million total budget. This year’s anticipated surplus is expected to be the same and only after a spending freeze was implemented in February.

Why do we spend more than any other town?
We don’t. Clinton’s per pupil expenditure is $17,584. Of the 11 nearby school districts, only one is lower (by $23). The highest is $22,783.

Why do we have empty buses driving around?
The town is mandated by the state to provide bus transportation to every student. Part of the regulations also dictate the length of time a student can be on a bus, so you can’t just send one bus around Clinton to pick up every kid. The administration is looking at ways to consolidate buses, including adjust school start times so that Joel and Pierson ride together. They have also renegotiated the contract and, while surrounding towns are paying around $350 per student per bus, through Clinton’s successful negotiation efforts we are paying $250.

Why are our Administrators salaries so high?
While their salary may seem like a large number they are actually very competitive with, and below, market rate. For both teachers and administrators, salaries are determined by the market and Clinton’s market is the surrounding shoreline towns. We are lucky to have the quality faculty and administrators that we have to work very hard to provide quality education with limited resources. They can easily go to a surrounding town if Clinton did not offer competitive wages.

Are they closing Pierson?
A study was done and, while it cannot happen next year, it is likely to happen in the near future. It is important to note that closing Pierson will not result in immediate cost savings. Up-front renovation costs for both Joel and Eliot schools to accommodate Pierson’s 250 students are estimated at $80- to $89 million.

Is the Eliot team teaching structure going away?
The Eliot team structure is being reconfigured. There will still be teams but two teachers on each team will have to teach two grades. In other words, one English teacher will be asked to teach on both a 6th grade team and a 7th grade team.

I’ll be away on the referendum date. Do you really need me?
Last year the budget lost by 146 votes and over xxxx number of cuts were made. A couple years before it lost by only 13 and teacher cuts were made. We can avoid unnecessary cuts to teachers and programs by getting out the vote. Absentee ballots are available or, if you are not going to be around you can go to town hall any day prior to the vote and “vote in the vault”.

Isn’t the first budget just a wish list? They don’t take it seriously the first time.
This is the first time in our current Superintendents’ tenure in Clinton that they have been asked to cut a significant amount of money from the initial request before even one referendum is had. The original operating budget increase was 6.03%, cut to 4.35% by BOE Budget/Finance Subcommittee, then 3.48% after additional superintendent cuts, and then 2.98% after additional BOE cuts. The final operating increase after a Board of Finance cut is 2.04%.

The 2018-’19 budget request was not rubber stamped.

They should restructure Employee Benefits
Last year employee benefits increased 16%. This year it is projected to be 3.5%. The current average trend is 8-10%. The district has addressed this by:

  • Changing to a high deductible plan for teachers
  • Moving to self-funded health collaborative
  • Switching carriers
  • Increasing employee contributions

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