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New London - The school board is looking for at least a 1.9 percent increase in the 2014-15 education budget to cover increases in salaries, insurance and transportation costs.
Board members told the City Council on Monday that the schools will need at least a $772,780 increase in the proposed budget, which they are in the process of putting together.
The current budget, which ends June 30, totals $40.5 million.
Board member Robert Funk presented the council with a rough outline of increases, which include a 1 percent increase in salaries, or about $180,000; a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs, about $335,000; and a 5 percent increase in transportation costs, or about $160,000.
There is also an anticipated increase in out-of-district placements for special needs students of about $100,000, he said.
"This budget is a process," Funk said. "This is a discussion. We're asking for some guidelines."
The school board will have a budget workshop on Thursday. The proposed education spending plan, when approved by the school board, will be sent to the mayor, who will include it in the overall budget he presents to the council April 1.
The council took no action at the meeting.
"I, and I hope other councilors agree, 1.9 percent is a slight increase," said Council President Wade Hyslop. "With these guidelines, you're on the correct path."
After the meeting, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio endorsed the school board's funding plan.
"I will support any reasonable request the Board of Education makes," he said. "Cutting further is not an option."
The current budget is about $600,000 more than the 2012-13 budget of $39.8 million. But the school budget did not increase in the previous five years. Funk said the district lost about 100 teachers and staff during that time.
Not all school board members at Monday's special meeting were satisfied with the nearly 2 percent increase.
"I'll be flabbergasted if there is any resistance to this," said board member Mirna Martinez. "I think it should be higher."
Also at Monday's meeting, there was a discussion about combining the city's and schools' finance departments to save money, but state-appointed Special Master Steven Adamowski said such a merger is still a few years away. Both sides are waiting on a report that is expected to summarize the costs and savings of having one finance department that would oversee payroll and other expenditures.
The council approved such a merger in 2012 and the school board agreed to it, but the details of making such a move have yet to be worked out.