FAIRFIELD, Conn. – As Superintendent David Title worked to persuade the rest of Fairfield’s government to add more money to the town's school funding next year, he made one basic argument: There will be more students next year, which means more teachers to hire.
“We’re a labor-intensive business,” Title said. “More kids means more staff, generally.”
The Board of Education asked for a total of $149.5 million in funding for the 2012-13 school year. That figure would be about $3.8 million, or 2.6 percent, higher than the current year’s spending. Title made the first defense of his spending plan to a joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance on Thursday.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau already proposed a $600,000 cut from that amount in his town spending plan. But that would come from a correction to the town’s employee health plan contributions and would not directly affect the classroom.
“It doesn’t affect any of our programs or services or staffing,” Title said of the proposed cut. “It’s really just a contribution to a fund.”
The main feature of Title’s budget plan is a change in the way Fairfield staffs it special education department. His idea is to eliminate 29 full-time paraprofessional positions across the district and replace them with at least one full-time teacher at each school.
The school district’s plan also includes adding more teachers to the high schools to deal with higher enrollment. Fairfield expects about 117 more high school pupils next year. Some teachers will be moved from elementary schools because of lower enrollment there, but Fairfield will add certified jobs in 2012-13.
Title also plans to add more part-time staffers at the elementary schools to handle the afternoon rush. Each school would have an extra clerical aide working around and after dismissal time to help with the rush of parents who pick up and drop off kids.
Title did not decide to add staff, however, to the areas reduced last year because of funding cuts. After the Representative Town Meeting decided to reduce the district’s request by $800,000, the Board of Education decided to trim foreign language classes at the middle schools and limit after-school hours at high school libraries to two days per week.
It decided not to put back either of those services for 2012-2013. “To get back into the budget they had to compete with everything else,” Title said. “It’s tough competition.”
The Board of Selectmen will vote on the town’s full spending plan for 2012-13, including the schools budget, on March 26. The Board of Finance will do the same March 28. The Representative Town Meeting will then have the final say in the first week of May.