For anyone who thinks of this as an attack on the Town education budget – guess again! It is, instead, an attempt to better understand this budget which is very difficult to read in its current format. What is missing from the proposed budget document provided by the BOE, is detail on the numbers and justification of teaching positions and other key support staff. Since teachers and Special Ed staff with fringe benefits account for as much as 30% of the education budget and since all other costs stem from teaching, a stronger argument should be made for these positions to present the best possible case for the proposed education budget- and I truly believe that the BOE can do this! This is especially pertinent given the BOF Chairman’ s statement in the Villager this week. Ms. Rapose’s statement in the Villager on “spending by the BOE” drips with blame even though it is the BOF and the Town that authorize spending by the BOE. It makes good sense to encourage the BOE to make the strongest case possible for the proposed budget rather than leave details unexplained. In doing so the BOE would be the most articulate advocate for the education system in Woodstock. Also, note that the BOF has ‘stolen’ initiative from the BOE by laying claim to the suggestion below that the BOE select a panel to ‘objectively’ review the proposed budget. It would have been far better if the BOE embraced this process and claimed it for their own.
In the Norwich Bull this last week, there was an article about the increase that Towns are facing in their Education budgets for the next fiscal year, 2006-2007. Apparently, the average BOE budget increase for towns in this part of the state is 8.3% according to the Bulletin. Norwichâ€™s increase was quoted at 7.9% with state entitlements increasing only 0.4%. The proposed education budget for Woodstock is $14,750,879, an increase of $1.2 million or an 8.86% increase. The total projected budget derived from Town taxation is $9,885,902 after deduction of $4,864,977 educational funding from the State of Connecticut. If a budget increase of about $600,000 is allowed under Prop 46, then this means that we are about $600,536 over budget.
If we examine properly annotated expenditures in this proposed budget such as Woodstock Academy tuition, regular teachersâ€™ salaries, superintendent salary, and salaries for the two principals, the validity and significance of these costs to the taxpayers of Woodstock can be evaluated and understood.
Woodstock Academy tuition â€“ In 2006-2007 it is projected 481 students will be sent to the academy at a cost of $4,675,710 in tuition. In addition, there is a $145,912 additional cost called â€œconstruction costsâ€? and $134,000 tuition for Special Ed to be paid to the Academy. In the academic year 2005-2006, the number of students actually enrolled was 475 at a cost of $4,370,870 based upon projected enrollment of 468. So in the new projected budget, we are paying for 7 students that were not projected for last yearâ€™s budget. Looking back over the last eleven years (including the current projected WA budget), the tuition rose on average each year at a rate of 3.13%. The projected tuition increase for 2006-2007 is 4.9%; however, there was no tuition rate increase last year so the last two years will average a 2.45% increase. This increase in tuition may be reduced from 4.9% to 4.5%, but this is uncertain.
If we examine the growth of Woodstock students enrolling in WA over the last eleven years, the enrollment has increase 50% from 1996-1997, growing from only 321 students to a projected 481 in 2006-2007. During this period, WA tuition expenditures in the BOE budget increased 112%. This is explained by the fact the cost of WA tuition increased 45%. Thus, rising WA tuition and a 50% increase in students is responsible for the growth of the WA portion of the Woodstock BOE budget.
To determine how much the tuition has changed over the last 11 years taking into consideration the rate of inflation, one can take the total tuition for 321 students in 1996 of $2,202,028 and multiply this number by a factor that represents the growth in number of students by 2006-2007. Read the rest of this entry »