New London school board ups budget proposal by $400,000

Editor's note: This corrects some details in an earlier version of this article.

New London - The school board increased the next year's budget proposal by $400,000 to pay for five new staff, even though Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said the money for the new hires will come from savings in out-of-district special education placement costs.

The Board of Education, in a 5-2 vote, approved a $40.8 million budget for 2013-14, about a 2.5 percent increase in spending when compared to this year's $39.9 million budget. Fischer had proposed a $40.4 million budget, a 1.5 percent increase.

Democratic board members Bill Morse, Delanna Muse, Sylvia Potter, Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez and board President Margaret Curtin voted in favor of the increase. Jason Catala and Barbara Major, both Republicans, voted against.

The district spends about $6.5 million each year on transportation and tuitions costs for special needs students and other students who live in New London but attend schools elsewhere.

At the beginning of the current year, 24 students were placed outside the district. But later, eight were brought back into the New London system, for a savings of about $250,000, according to Fischer. For 2013-14, he said, there is a plan to bring even more special needs students back to New London, at a savings of about $600,000.

Steven Adamowski, the state-appointed special master overseeing the school board, said finding the savings in the out-of-district placement costs is "a realistic goal.''

Morse made the motion to add the positions after nearly a dozen parents appealed to the board during a public hearing on Tuesday. They asked for four new teachers to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in the elementary schools and a second guidance counselor at the middle school.

Catala tried to amend the motion, to direct the superintendent to find the money without increasing the budget, but that failed with only Catala and Major voting in favor.

The City Council has final approval of the school department's budget. It can add to or cut the total but cannot make line item changes.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio is expected to present his proposed 2013-14 municipal budget, which includes general government and education, to the City Council on April 1.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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