RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Security at each of Ridgefield’s nine public school buildings is the main cause of the increase in the 2013-14 budget request, official said.
More than $500,000 has been requested just for security costs, mostly for staffing, Superintendent Deborah Low told the Board of Education on Monday night. Eight security guards and two additional Ridgefield police officers working as School Resource Officers, or SROs, would cost about $450,000 per year, she said.
But the cost for the SROs could be covered by the town or the police department, Low said. “I wanted to be sure that someone was covering it,” she said, “even though it might show up somewhere else.” The push for increased security comes after last month's deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
In all, the proposed budget is an increase of more than $2.6 million over this school year, bringing the total to more than $83.9 million. Without what Low called the necessary addition of security measures, the total budget plan would have increased by 2.61 percent to just less than $83.4 million.
“I think this budget moves us forward,” Low said, “in a fiscally responsible way.”
Beyond the additional security costs, the highest increase would come from teacher salaries at more than $1.5 million. The additional funds are partially due to the addition of 11.550 full-time equivalent teachers, some of whom have already been added into the school system.
Also, the teachers' contracts were renegotiated last year with an average 2.85 percent increase due mainly to contractual and inflation reasons, Board Vice Chairman Irene Burgess said.
The added school security wouldn’t even be on the table but for Newtown, Burgess said. A 2.61 percent budget increase was fair, she said.
The board also approved a new transportation contract Monday night that would save the town more than $514,000.