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Fairfield Schools Consider Extra Fees, Program Cuts

Fairfield Schools Superintendent David Title has to make more than $4.6 million in changes to the budget he proposed in January.
Fairfield Schools Superintendent David Title has to make more than $4.6 million in changes to the budget he proposed in January. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel (File)

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – New fees and fewer programs might be in effect at Fairfield Public Schools next year. Superintendent David Title announced a list of possible changed to the Board of Education’s budget Tuesday to make up for reductions made by other town boards over the last month.

Combined the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting cut more than $4.6 million from the school board’s funding request for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Of that about $3.6 million came from better-than-expected estimates for healthcare and pension costs, leaving $1 million the school board needs to make up in other ways.

“I’m doing my best to minimize it,” Title said. “Wherever I could find something that would not have a direct impact, I did it. I just don’t think you can get to $1 million that way.”

When faced with similar budget issues two years ago, the school board considered charging students to play on sports teams. After complaints from parents and students the board did not go through with the plan.

The idea Title proposed Tuesday would be on a smaller scale, charging only athletes in sports that need to pay rent for off-site practices: ice hockey, skiing, bowling, gymnastics, swimming and sailing. But board members also asked Title to look at other options, including charging for all sports and charging for all activities.

“If we’re going to start charging a partial rental fee to some athletes, I don’t think it’s fair not to charge other athletes some fees, because somebody’s athletic prowess happens to be on two ice skates rather than on a pair of cleats,” Board of Education member John Convertito said Tuesday.

The school board is considering raising or charging other fees as well. Title’s proposal includes increasing parking fees for high school students by $50 per year. There is also a plan to start charging outside groups like PTAs or non-profits for janitors’ overtime wages if they use school buildings on weekends.

Two programs could also face cutbacks. The school board had initially planned to expand the middle school gifted program, but instead the district might eliminate the program instead. One of two fifth-grade general music classes is also up for removal, leaving one general music period and the chorus program at Fairfield’s elementary schools.

The district also plans keep three vacant positions unfilled: a secretary and a media technician from central office and a grounds crew worker. They also expect to save another $84,000 in administrative salaries from employee turnover, and the lower cost of hiring replacements.

Other money-saving ideas included putting off buying 172 elementary school computers, delaying improvements to the school systems’ power generators and phasing in the purchase of new textbooks for English Language Learners.

The Board of Education will vote on the proposed changes at its next meeting on May 21. The full list of proposed cuts is available on the Fairfield Public Schools website.

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