In the first step of the school budgeting process, Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton laid out an initial budget proposal this week that would represent a 4.61 percent increase over last year, though Benton acknowledged that that figure will likely decrease in the upcoming months of the budget process.
“We strive to provide the highest quality educational experience for the children of Wilmington and to ensure that they have everything they need to succeed in the classroom, the art studio, the stage and on the ball field,” said Benton. “As we approach the Fiscal Year 14 budget cycle, districts across the country are struggling to find ways to better prepare our children for this ever-flattening global society that defines our world today.”
Benton’s proposal, which was presented to the School Committee on Wednesday night, requests a total budget of $34,072,153. That number would be an increase of about $1.5 million. Of the potential increase, $749,798 is in salary spikes.
The next steps in the process are to meet with Town Manager Jeff Hull, refine the budget based on those conversations and return to the School Committee on January 23 with an official recommendation.
Work on the budget proposal began in September and includes conversations with each department head and principal about their top priorities.
“We need to be realistic and also mindful of the state of the economy at the state and federal level,” said Benton. “We then whittle the number down based on our priorities for the district.”
Benton said the only frustration she had during the process was in the area of technology. The superintendent would like to have all schools equipped with wireless because she calls students “digital learners.” But Benton said that upgrade will have to happen over more than one budget season.
Overall, though Benton said the proposed budget is an initial “wish list,” she said it will be trimmed in the upcoming meetings to reach a level that is beneficial for the students and the community.
“The budget attempts to continue to move Wilmington forward,” said Benton. “A school’s budget should be viewed as an investment in the future and not simply an annual expense. After all, it is our responsibility to provide the children of Wilmington with a quality education.”