Milford teacher costs hike budget

MILFORD – A new superintendent of schools, a new bus contract and a new teachers’ contract have all contributed to a hike in school spending for next year.

But health insurance and other employee benefits are “our big problem,” said school board Chairman Paul Dargie as he gave a detailed presentation at the district’s budget hearing last week.

Voters can question and amend the articles at the district’s Deliberative Session, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5 in the high school cafeteria.

Teachers’ salaries and benefits have gone up by $1.1 million when their new contract is included. The “benefits and taxes” line item – for health and dental insurance, teacher retirement, sick leave payback, and other expenses – is $10.7 million, a $719,000 increase over current spending.

If approved by voters on March 10, the operating budget and the collective bargaining agreement would result in a new school tax rate of $20.59, a 6.96 percent increase.

The School Budget Committee is unhappy about the costs. Chairman Ron Carvell said the committee does not support the school budget. And because the default budget – a total of $37.9 million – is not much less than the budget, it give voters and the committee very little to choose from.

“What are we here for?” he asked.

Dargie said formulating the default budget was a “very detailed process” involving an elaborate spreadsheet, and suggested they review it with business administrator Jennifer Burk.

New superintendent

Salary and benefits for a new schools’ superintendent is included in a $99,600 item for non-
affiliated staff.

Longtime Milford Superintendent Bob Suprenant is retiring at the end of this fiscal year, and he has been working part time. The board is looking for a new superintendent and he or she would be full-time, hence there will be an added expense.

Because student enrollments are going down, five teaching positions in the district have been eliminated and one reduced from full to part-time, for a savings of $356,000.

Also helping to bring down costs is the new teachers’ contract, which includes major concessions on health insurance on the part of teachers, Dargie said, including a high health insurance deductible.

Budget Committee member Rick Wood, saying he was speaking as a citizen, objected to the district’s decision to allow some teachers to retire early, as well as the 2 percent raises in the new contract.

“The board seriously needs to look at the salary schedule,” he said. “It’s not sustainable,” and the default budget is too high.

New bus company

Every five years the district puts its bus contract out to bid, and this year the low bidder was Butler’s Bus Service of Concord, for regular school bus service.

The Butler contract will cost the district an extra $66,555.

“The reason that the cost is going up is that this is the first year of a new competitively-bid contract. The first year of a new contract is often higher than the old rates that were negotiated years ago,” Dargie said in an email.

The Provider Enterprises will keep its Milford contract for special education.

After the budget hearing, the board voted 4-1 to approve the operating budget warrant article, with Len Mannino dissenting, and 5-0 to approve the collective bargaining article.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.