NFA budget has 1.75 percent tuition increase

Norwich — The Norwich Free Academy board of trustees on Tuesday approved a $36.6 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

It includes a 1.75 percent tuition increase and an overall 1.84 percent spending increase, with no staffing changes and a total subsidy from the private NFA Foundation of $1.75 million to offset tuition hikes.

Tuition for seven partner districts with NFA as their main designated high school will be $12,985 for regular education, up from $12,762 this year. The Sachem Campus transitional program tuition will be $28,361. Special education tuition will range from $19,115 to $69,369 in several specialized programs.

Norwich, the largest partner district, receives a $200-per-student discount in all programs for host town services, such as police and fire coverage and other city services.

Staffing will remain the same, with 197 faculty, 93 staff and 11 administrators. Head of School David Klein told the board that school departments will be level funded in the coming year, emphasizing that all departments were cut by 5 percent at the start of last year. The level funding, he said, is after the 5 percent cut.

The NFA Foundation has provided a steady stream of tuition subsidies to the academy’s operating budget, totaling $8.3 million over the past seven years. In addition, the foundation granted $850,000 in unrestricted grants — $300,000 this year and $500,000 in the 2019-20 budget — that the board of trustees voted to apply to tuition, as well.

Board member Todd Postler, chairman of the finance committee that prepared the budget, said the committee’s goal was to keep the tuition increase under 2 percent next year. He thanked the foundation for its support, and cautioned that in future years, the foundation might not be able to provide such a high level of funding.

Board member and foundation President Keith Fontaine said the strong stock market helped provide enough proceeds to support the requested subsidies. He said the foundation cannot provide more than 5 percent of its proceeds each year.

In addition to the tuition subsidy and unrestricted grant, the foundation also gave $110,000 through funds restricted for program support provided by specific donors to the academy. The money will be used for new textbooks and technology upgrades in the coming year, Klein said.

One new program, called a School-to-Work Initiative, will be aimed at preparing seniors to enter the workforce directly. Klein said NFA worked with the Eastern Workforce Investment Board, the region’s manufacturing pipeline and consulted with about 45 business representatives on what skills they are looking for in high school graduates.

Additional student training in Microsoft programs will be added to the curriculum, and the 11th-grade British literature classes will be upgraded to include some of the interactive skills future workers will need. Seniors will be offered “mini courses” on topics such as workplace etiquette, interviewing, resume writing and job shadowing opportunities.

“We want NFA to be considered an employment center,” Klein said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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