NEWTOWN — Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue presented the proposed education operating budget for 2022-23 at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, January 18.
She began her presentation with an overview of the strategies and elements of the budget, including the goal of providing a safe, inclusive and equitable learning environment.
School board priorities with respect to the budget include funding for appropriate class sizes at all levels, ongoing maintenance of buildings, grounds and equipment, expansion and sustainability of technology, mental health resources, special education to meet enrollment and anticipated needs. , support for all extracurricular activities and professional development.
Additionally, the priorities include “additional supports needed to address learning deficits resulting from interruptions to student learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic” and “academic pathways, instructional activities, extracurricular opportunities and field experiences that meet the needs of all students and promote greater cultural and racial diversity awareness.
The budget process begins with requests from Trustees, which resulted in a budget increase of 5.53% this year.
When the budget was transferred to the Superintendent, it was reduced to an increase of 4.35% or a total of $83,161,076; after review by the school board, the budget will be transferred to the city council of finance and the legislative council.
Most of the budget revenue comes from taxpayers at 94.24%; the second largest portion of revenue comes from the Education Cost Sharing Grant at 5.64%.
Dr. Rodrigue reviewed the costs of special education as they impact the budget; she provided calculations which are used to determine the actual costs for Newtown.
She said it’s important for council members to understand how the city is responsible for out-of-district costs; next year’s costs are expected to be $4,614,801 with grant compensation of $1,300,484.
Breaking down the budget by major items, the Superintendent reviewed the major salary factors at $53,986,471 and benefits at $11,955,016.
The salary increase, compared to last year, is 3.46%.
Dr. Rodrigue also reviewed staffing requests, with a total of 7.5 additional teachers and intervention specialists in elementary and middle schools.
She noted that 6.18 positions are funded by expiring grants for a total cost of $380,482 which would be transferred to the operating budget.
In high school, there would be a reduction of 1.4 teaching positions and two paraprofessional reductions or 2.9 positions.
The total staff demand is 9.38 full-time equivalents.
Other purchased services will increase by 18.12%, including factors such as transportation increases as the current contract ends and the school district has estimated an 8% increase.
Building and site maintenance is expected to increase by 13.97%.
The presentation included a review of enrollment data and Dr. Rodrigue highlighted the challenges of establishing reasonable class sizes given the variables of the pandemic.
There are expected to be more students in elementary and middle schools, 84 and 18 respectively, and decreases in middle and high schools, 10 and 67 respectively.
The Board of Education continued its deliberation on the budget on Thursday, January 20.