FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s schools could face larger class sizes and cutbacks in programs if town leaders decide to scale back to bring down a 6.38 percent tax hike.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau’s proposed budget for 2013-2014 includes an added 3.9 percent in funding to Fairfield Public Schools, and would raise taxes 6.38 percent. Most of the school district’s added money would go toward its employee health care plan, which saw an unusually high number of large claims and new costs associated with federal healthcare reform.
The school board’s budget is on track to change by 0.1 percent in all areas other than teacher salaries and benefits, Superintendent David Title told the boards of Finance and Selectmen Tuesday. Any cuts from the Board of Education’s request would mean that programs would have to be scaled back or eliminated, he said.
“I understand that the low-hanging fruit has been taken, and it’s been taken on the town side as well,” Board of Finance member James Walsh said Tuesday. “What we’re talking about is service reductions.”
Walsh asked if class sizes could be changed to save money. Middle school and high school class sizes are fixed by the teacher’s union’s contract, but not elementary schools. The school board’s policy is to keep classes for kindergarten through second grade at no more than 23 students, and 25 students for grades three to five.
Title said Tuesday that adding one student to those maximums would cut the need for seven full-time teachers by his department’s calculations. That would save approximately $490,000 in salaries and benefits, he said.
School and central office administrators likely would not be cut, Title said. Statewide reforms in teacher evaluations, standardized tests and curriculum standards are set to take effect next year, which could create confusion without the current administrators, he said.
“Leadership is absolutely critical to the well-being and functioning of the district,” Title said. “I think that’s a very bad place to tray and save money.”
In its own budget talks the Board of Education considered reducing world language and music classes at elementary schools or instituting a “pay-to-play” system for sports teams. Those ideas were rejected in January, but would be considered again if the district’s funding was reduced, Board of Education chair Phil Dwyer said Tuesday.