Aside from goals of graduating students with college and career ready skills and being fiscally responsible, Agostine said his administration strives for transparency in its estimates of how much funding will be needed over the next 18 months.
"We're presenting to you with all candor what we believe we will need over that 18-month period of time," he said.
The budget would increase by $1,369,718 from the current $52,109,919 spending plan.
Despite the proposed increase, Agostine said the Board of Education budget has not kept pace with the rate of inflation over the past few years, adding with higher costs from vendors the district is "basically going backwards".
Agostine said the new proposal:
- Enhances the core academic program by including a new certified library media specialist in Monroe Elementary School and maintaining class sizes
- Provides support for all students in meeting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
- Provides adequate maintenance for all school buildings
- Provides teacher training in all district initiatives (Columbia Writing Project, Inquiry Learning, BYOT, CCSS, Teacher Evaluation, etc.)
Agostine said the cost drivers are $34,392,680 in contractual obligations for salaries, $3,013,589 for transportation, $8,692,702 in medical costs and $405,035 for the Honeywell loan agreement.
Salaries will rise by $1,391,490 or 4.22 percent. Agostine said the district slightly under-budgeted for salaries in the current budget, affecting the size of the increase.
The superintendent said salaries are difficult to calculate with staff members coming and going. If there are more retirements than expected, he said the district could realize more savings.
The budget proposal includes a $338,193 increase for medical insurance and a $50,000 contingency for unforeseen special education costs.
Many line items include reductions including $269,072 or 20.36 percent for energy and $43,435 for benefits, $30,172 for technology, $24,214 for transportation and $29,977 for textbooks and supplies.
Agostine said 84.46 percent of the budget would be funded by taxes, 12.29 percent from the Educational Cost Sharing Grant, 1.62 percent from other grants, 1.25 percent from excess cost sharing, 0.02 from facility usage and 0.36 percent from pay to play.
He said potential risks include a decrease in state funding, unanticipated special education costs in excess of $50,000, unfunded mandates, consortium rates for energy costs are not set and unanticipated maintenance for emergency repairs.
"We had to replace a $65,000 boiler this year," Agostine said of the latter.
Declining Enrollment, Staff Cuts
Due to declining enrollment, the superintendent said there will be four reductions in full-time certified staff. Agostine said he and Assistant Supt. John Battista met with teachers whose positions may be eliminated earlier on Monday.
"It's not a pleasant conversation to have," he said. "In some cases we may be able to keep them in another position. We try to be reassuring and let them know we’ll do what we can. But sometimes there's a line in the sand where you have to do a reduction."
The staff reductions would include one full time equivalent for special education in grades 6-8 and three for regular education in those grades.
Agostine showed figures on student enrollment. The decline began in 2004-05 with 4,141 students and now stands at 3,373. During that time, full time educators fell from 281.5 to 252. By the end of the projected decline in 2014-15, Agostine said there would be 3,258 students — a total decline of 883 — and 249 full time staff.