WESTERLY — The School Committee saved the largest part of Westerly’s proposed 2018-19 education budget — salaries and benefits — for Wednesday’s final scheduled workshop.
A total of about $47.62 million worth of the roughly $56 million budget proposal is devoted to salaries and benefits, an increase of $2.78 million from the current year, Interim Director of Finance Barbara Perino told the committee.
About $1.6 million of that increase is contractually mandated, while another $1.1 million is in the form of requests for additional staffing made by Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau.
“The biggest part of the budget is our staff,” Garceau said. Figures supplied by the school department show it has 570.9 full-time equivalent staff positions.
Perino noted that medical insurance costs are projected to rise about 12 percent, while the dental plan cost would increase three percent.
Committee members spent much of Wednesday’s session absorbing information about the school system’s staff levels and employment costs, which were presented in an all-encompassing spreadsheet prepared by Perino and Deputy Finance Director Cindy Kirchhoff.
The spreadsheet is “100 percent accurate,” Perino said, and includes current salaries and benefits for all staff.
“This is everything, and it’s all-in,” Perino said. “And we’re transparent. You can see every bit of work, every number. Every position is listed on there.”
The committee canceled a planned workshop for Thursday night, opting instead to discuss the budget at its regular meeting Jan. 24 if needed. Another workshop is scheduled for Jan. 30, also if needed.
Garceau said his aim is to post the proposed budget online for public review by Jan. 26. He also is planning a televised public presentation of the completed budget proposal on Jan. 31, when the committee could vote to adopt the budget as presented.
“We have pretty much everything done,” Garceau said. “The big bulk of the work is done.”
Still being worked on is the technology budget, which Garceau said would remain at this year’s funding level. That’s about $800,000, Perino said.
The superintendent also is proposing a $35,000 increase to the line item for stipends given to athletic coaches, making them comparable to other nearby school districts and helping Westerly to attract and retain coaching talent.
And Perino has submitted a request for $68,000 for what she said is a needed financial assistant.
According to the town charter, the committee has until Feb. 5 to present a budget to Town Manager Derrik Kennedy for review, and the process will continue beyond that, Garceau said.
If the committee does not adopt the budget on Jan. 31, Garceau said he’s likely to seek an extension of the submission deadline from the manager.