NFA budget will add high costs to Norwich city school budget

Norwich — The Board of Education will begin discussing next year’s budget Wednesday, but members received the first bad news Tuesday with a report on the potential impact of the new Norwich Free Academy budget on next year's city school budget.

The NFA board of trustees last week approved a $37.8 million budget for 2020-21 with a $13,175 tuition for Norwich general education students — a 3% increase over this year. Special education rates will increase at NFA at different rates for the several programs offered. One program, called PACE, or Program for Academic and Career Education, will be revamped with tuition increasing from $18,915 to $31,212, a 65% increase for the 37 Norwich students expected to be enrolled in that program.

Norwich is paying NFA $26.5 million this year, 34% of the total $81 million city public schools budget.

Norwich would pay NFA $16.5 million in tuition for the 1,253 projected general education students, an increase of $386,390, and another $1.15 million for the 37 students enrolled in the PACE program, an increase of $454,989 over this year’s total for that program.

Norwich School Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow presented a summary of potential costs of NFA tuition to the board Tuesday. The board’s budget committee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss both an update of the current year’s projected budget deficit — projected at over $2 million at the start of the school year — as well as next year’s budget preparation.

Stringfellow projected worst-case scenarios for the NFA budget, including high enrollment numbers for some special education programs, but those numbers have yet to be determined, she and School Business Administrator Athena Nagel said.

In addition to tuition, the Norwich public school budget pays for transportation of students to NFA and pays another $3.89 million for special education staff, specialists such as speech therapists, a teacher for hearing-impaired students and paraprofessionals for Norwich students attending NFA special education programs.

Board of Education Chairwoman Heather Romanski said Tuesday she and Stringfellow will meet Wednesday with NFA board of trustees President DeVol Joyner to discuss contract negotiations for a new five-year master agreement NFA hopes to reach with the eight partner districts, including Norwich. The current agreement expires June 30, and officials in Norwich, Preston and Canterbury have told NFA officials they wish to discuss potential changes in a new agreement.

c.bessette@theday.com

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