Guilford schools budget carries 7.3% increase

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 15, 2008

GUILFORD — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella presented a preliminary budget with a 7.3 percent increase from the current package to the Board of Education at its regular meeting Monday.

The proposed budget for the next fiscal year totals more than $49 million, up about $3.4 million from the 2007-08 budget. The higher figure represents a larger increase than the district has seen in recent years, which have been around 5 percent annually.

Forcella said the district’s budget priorities for next year are technology, professional development, facilities and instructional supplies or textbooks. He added that the board operates on a “needs-based” budget, meaning that it reassesses its needs every year rather than building in a set increase on the current year’s budget.

The district is not expecting an overall increase in students next year, Forcella said, although the numbers at some schools will fluctuate.

“There will be changes, I’m sure, as the process moves forward,” he said. “Although, yes, it’s needs based, there are a lot of needs and we also know there’s a community out there that expects us to be fiscally responsible.”

The preliminary budget includes significant increases in the cost of heating and electricity for the school buildings, as well as capital outlay for various school facility improvements and upgrades to the district’s snowplows.

A large portion of the budget increase, 64 percent or $3.4 million, results from increases in teacher pay and benefits that had been negotiated as part of earlier contracts, Forcella said.

Several members of the Guilford Parent-Teacher Association’s committee on special education attended the meeting to advocate for more consideration of special-needs students in the budget.

Kim Beckett, one of the parents in the group, said that she would like the district to hire a speech therapist for younger students.

“It is critical that there is a full-time speech pathologist at the pre-K level since that is where most of our vulnerable students are,” Beckett said. “With early intervention, there is more than a strong possibility that a need will not be as great throughout a child’s education.”

Forcella said that reviewing the special education curriculum is part of the district’s “strategic plan” for the 2008-09 school year. Currently, the district has to pay to send some students to schools outside the district.

“We really need to take a look at how we’re doing in our special education,” he said.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said that board members will now meet with the Board of Finance, and also hold public sessions to discuss the budget, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29 in the chorus room at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School.

He added that the board hopes to vote on the budget at its Feb. 4 meeting.

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