School Finance Committee Requests 1.5 Percent Budget Increase

New London Public Schools have been flat-funded for five years

The New London Public Schools budget would get a raise of about $600,000 under a request adopted on Thursday.

The Board of Education’s Finance and Audit Committee unanimously agreed to request a 1.5 percent increase to its budget for the 2014 fiscal year. This would bring the school budget from about $39.8 million to $40.4 million.

Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said the increase will take into account factors such as contractual salary negotiations and an anticipated increase in transportation costs. He said other costs, including energy, are more malleable.

“The wild card out there every year is special education costs, and that’s going to keep being the wild card,” he said.

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Based on the allocated general fund budget, the increased budget would represent per pupil expenditures of $6,578 for elementary school students, $8,222 for Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School students, and $9,866 for New London High School students.

The district is also considering whether to join the state insurance system. Fischer said the business office is working out what the net costs of such a transition would be, saying it can sometimes represent a one-time reduction in costs followed by an accelerated increase in expenditures. Maria Whalen, the district’s director of business and finance, said there is currently a projected 6.42 percent increase in insurance costs without the transition.

The Board of Education will receive the proposed budget on Feb. 26 and vote on it on March 8. Budget deliberations begin on the city side on April 1 when Mayor Daryl Finizio presents his budget proposal to the City Council.

Gov. Malloy’s budget critiqued

Committee members also expressed skepticism about Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal. Malloy previously announced an increase in Education Cost Sharing funds for several districts, including an increase by $973,541 for New London in the 2014 fiscal year and another increase by the same amount for the 2015 fiscal year. The proposal would represent an 8.2 percent overall increase over current ECS levels.

However, the proposal comes alongside a reduction in state funds for school transportation costs. Whalen said Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master assigned to the district, has advised her not to rely on increased state funding in the budget preparation.

“We’re looking at $900,000 in one hand and almost $700,000 being taken away in the other hand,” she said.

President Peg Curtin previously praised the requested ECS increase, but said she was dismayed by how it would be balanced out by the overall state budget proposal.

“Nothing has really changed,” she said. “He’s just shifting from general government to the education side.”

2012 budget

For the current fiscal year, the Board of Education t, or a six percent increase from the $39,817,405 budget for the 2012 fiscal year. Mayor Daryl Finizio recommended that the City Council approve a three percent increase, or $41,011,927.

The Council approved a , which added $809,001 in additional Education Cost Sharing funds under Malloy’s education reform legislation. The Council also recommended a consolidation of municipal and school finance office budgets, an action later approved by the board.

However, the budget was returned to its $39.8 million level after Adamowski halted both of these actions. Adamowski said the additional ECS funds could not be included in the budget since Fischer would have to develop a one-year form plan for the district before the funds were available. He said the finance consolidation should not take place until a more thorough planning process has been completed. The board approved the budget in a 5-2 vote in August.

Adamowski has said the district’s funding levels are unsustainable and that the district has the longest streak of level-funded budget years in the state, having worked with a $39.8 million annual budget for five years. Under the current budget, the district eliminated 46.5 of its 420 positions including 23 teachers, eight teachers’ aides, four secretaries, and three administrative positions. The district also eliminated its AVID and SEMI programs in order to meet its budget.

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Jason Morris February 12, 2013 at 10:45 PM
A request for an increase SHOULD come with a specific list of why that number was chosen, not some arbitrary number chosen by politics.
silas merrimack February 14, 2013 at 10:49 PM
It's about time - New London has had a flat budget for far too long. Our kids deserve the best and our schools can barely afford white boards while others have technology in every classroom that helps engage students who are hard to reach. New London should be embarrassed by how little effort they make to properly fund the schools. Not to mention the fact that the pay scale in New London is not competitive and causes good teachers to leave simply because they never get the pay raises they deserve and would get in any other district, especially when they do so much for those kids on their own time and with their own money.
Jason Morris February 19, 2013 at 05:55 AM
though many are asking the tougher questions: last year the BoE requested a 6% increase - the mayor advocated for 3% - and they were instead given a reduction in city contributions to the budget. they called it "flat funding" but when your budget amount doesn't change - but your contributions from the state increases (ECS funding)...the obvious result is the city having to pay less into that total budget to keep the number "flat". we're also asking why 1.5%? trying to just maintain the status quo of 46.5 fewer positions including around 30 teachers? what about reducing class size like the Nathan Hale kindergarden class of 27 kids!? or building maintenance money for our middle school roof or heating pipes? or counselors for all our schools to help guide the students and staff? etc.


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