North Stonington school board votes for 'austere' budget

North Stonington — The Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve what Superintendent Peter Nero called an “austere” budget of $12,991,825, proposing a 1.98 percent increase in spending.

The proposal for 2014-15 is slightly lower than Nero’s estimate last month of a 2.19 percent increase, and less than half of the nearly 5 percent increase in this year’s schools budget.

Nero said 78 percent of the budget — about $10 million — is comprised of salaries and benefits. Fixed costs — contracts or regulation-related expenditures including transportation, food services and out-of-district tuition — make up the next-largest piece at about 17 percent.

The final 5 percent of spending is made up of discretionary spending — items like textbooks, equipment and teaching supplies.

The largest expenditures in the budget include increased workers’ compensation costs, funding to meet the school’s obligation for a state technology grant for new computers, and preparation for this fall’s visit from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Nero said that any further changes to the budget proposal would result in a decrease, not an increase. Board members voted to remove the line item for magnet school transportation — about $23,000 — because it is not mandated by the state Department of Education, though it has historically been covered as a courtesy.

The final proposal to the town’s Board of Finance will reflect that reduction.

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