Groton school budget projections show 4.4 percent increase over four years

Groton -- New multi-year budget projections for the school system delineate savings that would result from the middle school consolidation in 2020, and predict a total budget increase of 4.4 percent budget from the 2018-19 school year to 2022-23. 

The projections show increases of 2.29 percent in 2019-20 and 2.26 percent in 2022-23, while the two years in between will see a decrease of 0.61 percent and then an increase of 0.46 percent.

District business manager Ken Knight noted this is all conjecture, and the projections need to be refined with Superintendent Michael Graner. 

Knight forecasts 10 retirements per year, along with the loss of 16 teacher positions for the 2020-21 school year - when the new middle school is scheduled to open - and six for the following year. 

In his projections, Knight also assumes that health insurance costs will rise by 7.5 percent each year. 

Knight and Graner presented the projections at a special meeting of the Groton Board of Education Finance/Facilities Committee on Monday night, with discussion of other factors and possibilities that could influence the budget. 

Graner said administrators will have to look at enrollments, and he is uncertain about the impact of condominium construction on Route 12. 

Assistant Superintendent Susan Austin commented, “If we’re able to keep our kids on this side of the bridge, that’ll make a big difference,” a reference to New London transforming into an all-magnet school district. 

Board member Jay Weitlauf noted that the state legislature could eliminate Alliance Districts at any time. 

The prospect of losing its designation as an Alliance District - one of the 33 lowest-performing districts in the state, per a 12-metric system from the Connecticut Department of Education - was a question mark that Knight put at the end of his projections. 

The Alliance District designation runs for five years, through the 2021-22 school year. If Groton were to lose this classification after that point, it would no longer be exempt from losing funding from the state’s Education Cost Sharing budget each year. 

The Groton Board of Education is asking for a 2.42 percent increase for the 2018-19 budget, and Knight projects a 2.29 percent increase for the following year. 

Groton board members and administrators were feeling good about these increases, noting that the annual cost of living increase is around 2 percent. 

In other area districts, school boards are asking for 2018-19 increases of 9 percent in Norwich, 4.56 percent in New London, 2.15 percent in Waterford, 1.7 percent in Ledyard and 0.85 percent in Montville. 

Board member Katrina Fitzgerald expressed a desire to compare the new projections side-by-side with the district’s strategic plan. 

“Our strategic plan should, ideally, work in conjunction with, or justify, our budget,” she said. 

 

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