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.”
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.