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Superintendent's Budget Requests 4.93 Percent Increase

Contractual raises and health benefits increases are major cost drivers going into 2013-14.

As the new year begins, Brookfield’s 2013-14 budget season is getting underway, beginning with the Superintendent of Schools, Anthony Bivona, presenting his administration’s budget proposal to the Board of Education (BOE) earlier this month. Bivona’s initial proposal request asks for $38,862,940, a $1,826,940 or 4.93 percent increase over the approved 2012-13 budget.

The BOE is currently deliberating on the superintendent’s budget and will deliver their final proposal to the First Selectman’s Office by January 31. The school board and administration will also be giving a joint presentation to the Boards of Selectmen and Finance in mid February.

The largest cost drivers in the superintendent’s proposal are employee benefits, which rose $592,754 or 9.54 percent year-over-year, and salaries, which increased 4.3 percent by $1,026,645.

The increase to the salaries line is due in part to seven new full-time positions, which collectively represent $273,688 of the $24,903,991 allocated for salaries in the superintendent’s proposed budget. The remainder of the increase ($1,026,645) is for $688,427 in contractual salary increases and an additional $64,530 in the budget for substitute teachers.

With the number of students requiring special education services in the district rising steadily since 2009-10 — including increasing from 297 for the current year to a projected 305 next year — five of the full-time positions being requested are to assist special needs students in each of the four school buildings. The proposal calls for two paraprofessionals at Center Elementary School (CES), one certified in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA); a paraprofessional at Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES); a social worker at Whisconier Middle School (WMS); and a full-time special needs teacher at Brookfield High School (BHS).

The other two “full-time positions” are actually three teachers — one full-time and two part-time — to bolster the district’s World Language Program by adding an additional full-time language teacher for kindergarten and first grade students at CES and part-time Mandarin teachers for grade seven at WMS and grade nine at BHS.

The district is also working on implementing a three-phase security upgrade to four school buildings in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook shootings in neighboring Newtown. Brookfield’s registered voters and property owners have been asked to attend a town meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to approve funding for Phase I and school and town officials will be meeting over the next few weeks to work on a funding plan to accomplish the latter phases before the end of the current academic year.

Bivona proposed a 2.76 percent increase in his initial budget proposal for 2012-13, which was adjusted slightly by the Board of Finance and ultimately approved by voters at 2.45 percent.

Historic Budget Increase (Decrease) Data

Fiscal Year

Dollar Increase

Percent Increase

2006-07 $967,500 3.08 percent 2007-08 $1,221,700 3.76 percent 2008-09 $418,022 1.24 percent 2009-10 ($88,369) -0.26 percent 2010-11 $1,410,762 4.15 percent 2011-12 $732,048 2.06 percent 2012-13 $886,000 2.45 percent Avg Increase
$792,523
2.35 percent
2013-14 proposed $1,826,825 4.93 percent
Steven DeVaux January 15, 2013 at 02:31 PM
A 5% increase in taxes would yield an approximate $7K loss in home sales value in Brookfield next year for first time homebuyers.
Jennifer Pashkin Scott January 15, 2013 at 02:42 PM
I LOVE the idea of having Mandarin taught as part of our World Language program. Many of the best schools are already doing this. As a recruiter I can vouch for the advantages this will give our graduating students. Also, it is a proven fact that young children learn language more easily than adults, so in my opinion, the younger we start our kids in the program, the better. Global business is a reality, and dealings between China and the rest of the world will continue to multiply. Giving our kids a leg up in the global economy is smart.
Laura Orban January 15, 2013 at 03:01 PM
I think supporting the World Language Program is very important, as is the need for an additional social worker. Professionally, I've worked with people around the globe. People who speak multiple languages have a clear advantage. I don't see this as a "nice to have", I see it as a very important skill our kids will need to get jobs and compete.
Victor January 15, 2013 at 03:48 PM
The proposed increase is ridiculous considering the economy and tax increases that practically every household is experiencing. Even 2 percent appears high.
Longtime Brookfield resident January 15, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Laura - I agree that langauge is important aspect of education but again find a way to incorporate in a 2% increase not a 5% increase. Once again its called being fiscally responsible as we all have to do in our personal lives - Living within our means and its seems like Mr Bivona lives in a different world than most of us do. In fact he does not live in Brookfield so raising our taxes by 5% has no real consequence to him. Also part of his BONUS is based on incorporating more languages into this school year. So yes langauge is important but find a way to do this with 2% increase. Again maybe I live in a much different world but 5% increase is way out of line and we need to get the BOE to become more responsible and bring the superintendent back to reality as we all do not have an income of over 210k per year.
Wondering January 15, 2013 at 04:28 PM
So what specific cuts to the proposal do you recommend? What would be the impact of those cuts? General statements are fine, specific statements are better.
Laura Orban January 15, 2013 at 04:30 PM
LBR, I'm glad we agree on the importance of language. I have viewed the role of the Superintendent as one of recommending what our kids need. If the schools don't start by telling us what our kids need to be competitive, how will we ever know? If the town feels it can not or will not support the recommendations, I see that as a different issue.
Brian Kelly January 15, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Any increase of any kind is going to get shot down in this town. That's why we always have to vote on the budget a few times. Me? I'm very happy with the school system, very happy with the way we always rank fairly high on impartial national rankings, very happy with the way Bivona is adjusting the curriculum to best prepare our kids for the times they will live in. As usual, we'll go round and round on this and then settle on a 3% increase. But I'm going to be voting yes every time...
Longtime Brookfield resident January 15, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Brian- I respect your opinion but why cant we achieve our goals with less than 5% increase. Your actual analysis is probably correct and probably built into the Superintendants budget anyway - I will ask for 5% and settle for 3% - But why not be realistic in our asked increase. Again I must live in a much different world but 5% seems to high and again if your happy with Mr Bivona and feel he doing a great job then he should be able to use a 2% to 3% increase and accomplish these goals - Its called managing- We all do it everyday with the funds we have without getting more. I simply do not have anymore to give and have cut back on every corner I can. I do not feel its unfair of me to ask the BOE and Mr Bivona to take a 2% increase into consideration.
Ken D. January 15, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Steve, since the average increase over recent years as been ~2% and this proposed increase is ~5% - the delta is a 3% deviation over what one could call "the norm". IN addition, while the biggest contributor to the towns budget, a 3% education increase would not translate to a 3% increase to ones total tax bill. So lets re-run that $7K decrease in home value equation. Also, do a model where you run the homes value if there was no education budget / system as all and see what effect it would have.
Ken D. January 15, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Sadly, I believe this is all part of the hyper-emotional, non trusting world we live in (and have helped create). Do you actually believe Superintended Bivona is being naïve – or does he know no matter what percentage he puts in for the same group of people are going to scream that its too high and so after a long back and forth it will get shaved a few percent? I can guarantee he’s aware of that. I would also like to remind people that when it comes to education our children don’t take a year or two off and pause their development until the fiscal situation improves. So, when sacrifices are screamed for its not like postponing the purchase of a town truck or upgrade to a boiler. When a language isn’t offered, or a program of study is cut those students miss out – forever. Sometimes it might be a ‘nice to have’ program which helped a student get into a better college or university and other times it might be a special education teacher or aide whose time with a student or group of students change their life forever. That’s the lens we need to look at education with. It’s NOT the same as every other line item in a budget and “postponing” things to a rainy comes at a steeper price than many consider.
Steven DeVaux January 15, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Be my guest.
Steven DeVaux January 15, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Social workers let down Newtown. Brookfield needs folks providing security for students.
Steven DeVaux January 15, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Bivona is applying the Obama strategy. Spend a trillion then negotiate to split the different. Net, half a trillion - the original hidden target.
Longtime Brookfield resident January 15, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Ken- I am not looking to postpone anything but to be realistic on what we propose. No way did I say take ayear off either - What I said is live with a more realistic increase not 5% - If you look at the past 7 school years the average increase was 2.35% and I have not heard or read of any damage this has done to getting our children into good colleges. As for languages if a parent wants thier child to learn Mandarin hire a tutor plan and simple. BOE needs to manage a 2.35 % increase as we have over the past 7 years. Again to me its simple live within our means. Good Edcuation does not come form having an open unlimited check book. Please give me an alternative to cut back on my expenses to cover such a large increase as I simply am barely keeping head above water now. So i should cut back even more so we can teach some children mandarin ?
Caitlyn Elizabeth January 15, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and freedom of speech. If anyone commenting here on the Patch is receiving even a dollar from the Education system, in the name of honesty and full disclosure, I hope that they will mention that fact, and how much they are being paid.
Michael Gianfranceschi January 15, 2013 at 09:33 PM
the soc security rate is not 6% it is 15.2% and i know that employers pay half( gee where do they get that money? increased prices is where), but if you are self-employed like me you pay the whole thing and that is on gross not net income.
Michael Gianfranceschi January 15, 2013 at 10:16 PM
my mistake, the rate is 15.3% not 15.2%
Steven DeVaux January 15, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Annual BEFORE BIVONA 2013-2014 Taxes Per Month $458.33 PRINCIPAL $320,000.00 1% $3,200.00 INTEREST 2.8% $8,960.00 TAXES $5,500.00 $17,660.00 Approximate Monthly Mortgage Payment $1,471.67 Annual AFTER BIVONA 2013-2014 Taxes Per Month $480.93 4.93% Increase per Month $22.60 Increase per year $271.15 PRINCIPAL $312,700.00 1.0% $3,127.00 INTEREST 2.8% $8,755.60 TAXES $5,771.15 $17,653.75 Approximate Monthly Mortgage Payment $1,471.15 $271 Increase in taxes (5%) = $7,300 loss of home value holding the mortgage payment constant for 1st time homebuyers or in other words, each 1% increase in taxes yield a .5% decrease in home value assuming constant wages & employment $27 of home value lost for each dollar of tax increase And the education systems are the same if not better in Newtown, Ridgefield, New Fairfield and other surrounding communities. It is why homes decrease in value in Brookfield and increase in value there. It is the "Tax Surcharge" (lost home value to 1st time homebuyers Loss on Home Value $(7,300.00) -2.3%
JM January 16, 2013 at 12:45 AM
And if you want to learn math hire a tudor. Same goes for reading and science.
Ken January 16, 2013 at 04:11 AM
I think this analysis while interesting is more than a bit simplistic. No one buying a house cuts it so close that a difference of $25-$75 per month in their payment would make any difference in their ability to qualify for a mortgage or be a significant factor in choosing between two homes with a price difference of less than $10k. Do you really think any buyer is going to be swayed by a $23 per month difference in their mortgage payment? Do you think any seller even thinks about the fact that they may need to cut their selling price by 2% due to a $271 tax difference? I am not sure what the 1% principal in your example represents. I did a real calculation of the actual monthly for each of the two houses in your example using 30 yr and 2.8% interest. (Great rate if you can really find a 30 yr fixed at this rate.) The actual monthly payment difference between $320k ($1,326/Mo) and $313k ($1,295) is only $30. I think you will agree that in the scope of buying a home for $320k vs. $313k, a difference of $30 per month, $360 per year would NOT be a significant consideration when choosing one house over another.
JAMIE HOWARD January 16, 2013 at 04:55 AM
Stop it= lets talk facts. this county is on the bottom of the food chain as education goes ..Did you no kids in a third word country can =speak= add think in three different languages= american education is being blown out of the water why?do you think it could be the unions an to many administrators? in my opinion schools curriculum has to go back to the basis an accountability. MONEY does not give a better education .teachers do= an they should be paid for what they do- an that is to provide a proper education to our children. Education is too important to be left solely to the educators .Let run the school system just like Bussiness
Ali Abdulah January 16, 2013 at 05:00 AM
."Did you no kids in a third word country can" do you know the difference between no and know?
Steven DeVaux January 16, 2013 at 11:03 AM
You are so wrong. Talk to struggling kids today. LOOK at the real estate sales in each of the towns over the last 5 years. It's not the go-go roaring 90's any more. Kids nowadays would take great umberage with trivializing their struggles. The answer is they are trying to make their education debt payments something baby boomers really didn't struggle with. They are struggling with the cost of medical insurance. It's not about qualifing for how deep in debt the banks and real estate brokers can put them. THEY are savvy to that game as real estate sales for the last 5 years town-by-town have shown. The average age of the median priced home buyers shows what first time home buyers are doing. The baby boomers can want all they want but when folks will only pay what they want they can grow old in homes, never selling. Yes, kids figured out the game. The numbers over 5 years bear it out. You're nit-piking a simple example. They are doing their math. I applaud todays kids that are every bit as savvy as our grandparents were with a buck. The homeowner who doesn't cut their price simply won't sell. It's the law of supply and demand. It's a socio-economic model that no longer falls prey to snake oil salesmanship. No I don't agree and the numbers bear it house. Home sales are rising and home prices are still falling in Brookfield. Keep raising the taxes and expecting different results. But I wouldn't hold my breath about selling. It's a market driven economy now.
mario patella January 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM
thanks!
JAMIE HOWARD January 16, 2013 at 02:30 PM
sam -i think you are being facetious with yor dictum passing remark= or may be your just an over paid administrator or burned out teacher= Sam we have a serious problem with the education system in america an it needs to be corrected not stupid silly corrective Indowendos-children are americas number 1 asset time for a BROOM
JAMIE HOWARD January 16, 2013 at 02:38 PM
O YES CORRECT ME ON YOR -PS JUST WANT TO SEE IF YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION =IS IT TOMATO OR TOMOTO- YO
Steven DeVaux January 16, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Brookfield's performance: Brookfield, CT - Single Family Properties 12 Months Ending: Dec-12 Dec-11 Change Unit Sales 142 114 24.60% Average Sale Price $395,427 $418,922 -5.60% Median Sale Price $334,950 $361,250 -7.30% Average List Price $525,824 $516,019 1.90% Sales to List Price Ratio 95.00% 93.79% 1.30% Inventory 134 138 -2.90% Months of Supply 13.2 12.8 3.10% MarketTime (Days) 116 130 -10.80% Price per Sq Ft $167 $174 -3.70% Keep raising taxes. The actions of first time homebuyers speak for themselves. No interpretation needed.
Rob Gianazza January 17, 2013 at 01:38 AM
I'm concerned that we are spending resources without properly addressing the current student needs. We are far behind guidelines for Art instruction, Music and Physical Education, yet the administration is recommending additional programs which will reduce the time students have available for their current studies. We have hired and will continue to hire remedial reading and math teachers to assist students is subjects that we are not properly supporting. Perhaps the time has come to focus on what we are currently doing and do it very well before we take on new initiatives.
Longtime Brookfield resident January 17, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Rob- I couldnt agree more but that would be way to business minded for the current administration - its called core competency and its what all successful businesses focus on and continue to stress as a main mantra to sucess. The problem once again lies in these new initiatives are tied to Mr Bivona's bonus payment so right or wrong he will try and implement. Maybe we should focus on the new all day kindergarten program and IPAD programs and work out any issues with these new programs. Once again too we must realise that any couple with a income of 100k already is dealing with a paycheck that contains $200 less dollars per month. So is this the time to implement new programs at a cost of 4.9% increase. We must also remember that any increase we implement now will be compounded as next years INCREASE which will be based on previous years final numbere and so on. This is not a ONE time capital cost but an long term operating cost. We need to bring everyone back to reality on this obscene increase

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