Norwich - The Board of Education kept the public school portion of the proposed 2013-14 budget flat Tuesday, approving a $71.9 million budget that calls for a 2.15 percent increase to cover increases in tuition bills for Norwich Free Academy.
The vote cut the preliminary public school portion of the budget by $608,000 but still managed to add two middle school world language teachers - a request made by parents at last week's budget hearing. The budget also includes two new mental health workers.
Superintendent Abby Dolliver said school officials were able to make the cuts and add the language teachers through adjustments to workers' compensation insurance and other costs that do not affect programs or staffing.
The school budget will be forwarded to City Manager Alan Bergren, who will present his budget, including a bottom line for the school budget, to the City Council April 1.
A $1.5 million combined regular and special education tuition increase for NFA would be the only increase in the school budget.
Increases at NFA have been at the center of budget discussions over the past two weeks. In addition to the $21.7 million paid to NFA for tuition, school officials calculated that Norwich also incurs another $1.7 million in costs for special education para-educators, tutors for suspended or expelled students, and speech, language and assistance to hearing-impaired students.
Also Tuesday, the board approved a letter to be sent to NFA Board of Trustees President David Whitehead asking that negotiations begin by July 1 on a new contract between the Board of Education and NFA as the city's designated high school.
In the letter, board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso also expressed a desire to conclude negotiations on a new contract prior to the city's adoption of a 2014-15 budget a year from this spring.
Dolliver told the school board Tuesday that the current contract required notification to NFA of the city's desire to negotiate new terms two years before the contract expired. If that deadline had passed, the current contract terms would be automatically renewed.