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Groton superintendent's proposed $79.7 million budget to go to public hearing Tuesday

Groton — Superintendent of Schools Susan Austin has proposed a 2022-23 education budget of $79.7 million that is $2.3 million or 3% more than the current budget.

A virtual public hearing will be held on the proposed budget Tuesday at 6 p.m. with Zoom information available on the school district’s website, https://www.grotonschools.org.

Austin said salaries and benefits are the largest drivers of the increase.

The salary line item is increasing by 3.25% due to “contractual pay increases and minimum wage obligations,” according to the proposal. She said the minimum wage increase included in next year's budget hopefully will help the district with staffing shortages, and the district already implemented the increase this month.

Austin said the school district found efficiencies, including staffing efficiencies, for this year's budget, as the district closed three elementary schools at the end of last school year and opened two new larger elementary schools at the beginning of this school year. For next year’s budget, the district is proposing to add back two positions: an assistant principal position and a secretarial position. This would mean each of the two new elementary schools will have two full-time assistant principals and two secretaries, rather than 1.5 of each of those positions.

She said the proposed staffing change would serve the needs of the schools, which are larger and host specialized special education programs, as well as early childhood programs.

The benefits line item is increasing by 5.32% with insurance claims costs expected to increase, according to the proposal. Other increases include greater costs for bus transportation according to a contract the school district has with the bus company,

The budget for next year supports programs, including Next Generation Science Standards, rigorous math instruction, the International Baccalaureate campus at Fitch High School and Groton Middle School, and a partnership between the town and Board of Education to fund school resource officers at Fitch High School and Groton Middle School. It also maintains effective class sizes, according to the proposal.

The education budgets for 2020-21 and 2021-22 had 0% increases.

She said school officials will not be able to tap into the health insurance reserve as they did to help fund the current year's budget, because it’s not sustainable to do that again. The district also had efficiencies this year due to the consolidation of the schools. She said it’s hard to predict what the final number for next year’s budget will be, but the Board of Education will carefully review the budget proposal over a series of meetings.

"We'll do our very due diligence in really examining the budget with the board," she said. The board is slated to adopt a budget by the end of February.

k.drelich@theday.com

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