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East Lyme - The superintendent is proposing a $43,989,614 education budget for 2014-15, representing a 4.88 percent increase over this year's spending plan.
Technology, salaries, benefits and maintenance projects were among the major increases highlighted in an initial budget presentation to the Board of Education on Thursday.
Support for the state-mandated teacher evaluation system, which the district will use to evaluate all of its faculty and staff next year, also represented an increase of $296,587.
Assistant Superintendent Brian Reas said the district's education budget has averaged a 1.7 percent rise over the past four years. The district has worked in past years to realize savings in special education programs and energy costs; it has also benefited from lower insurance rates over those years, he said.
"This year, unfortunately, we don't have those savings," said Reas, adding that the district is continuing to aim to operate as efficiently as possible.
The proposed budget calls for adding new staff positions, including an assistant principal shared between Lillie B. Haynes and Flanders elementary schools, to assist with the evaluation system. A new dean of students position, one each at the high school and middle school, will help with behavioral issues and to manage some student activities. The position is proposed as a solution to complete duties traditionally assigned to principals and guidance staff who will instead have to spend more time on evaluations, explained Superintendent James Lombardo.
Principals spoke at Thursday's meeting about the time burden of the teacher evaluation system and the need for support to implement the program while continuing other leadership duties. The district is currently evaluating one-third of its teachers with the new program.
Among the new staff positions is a teacher to reinstate an improved world language program in the elementary schools, which was eliminated for this year, said Reas.
The district will enter its fourth year of a technology replacement program and will see a 35.9 percent increase in its technology lease next year. Natural gas costs are also projected to rise by $164,000, or a 72.3 percent hike, according to the presentation.
Salaries will rise 2 percent for administrators, 3.1 percent for teachers and about 3 percent for other employees in negotiations, according to the presentation.
The district will pay an additional $372,000 in health insurance costs under the Affordable Care Act, said Reas.
The board will discuss the budget at its meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday at the high school. The board will hold a public hearing on Feb. 3 and is slated to adopt the budget by Feb. 24.