Norwich school board sends $92.8M budget to City Council
Norwich ― The Board of Education Tuesday approved a proposed $92.8 million school budget for 2023-24 that calls for a 6.9% increase, slightly lower than the package it reviewed two weeks earlier.
The late adjustments to health insurance, unemployment compensation and fuel costs cut $438,000 from the total, but the new proposed budget has an increase of $6 million over the current $86.8 million budget.
School Business Administrator Robert Sirpenski said the current budget is projected to end the year with a deficit of about $2 million, caused by special education tuition for out-of-district placements. The school district recently learned it will receive an additional $1 million from the state to cut the deficit in half.
Unlike in past years, when the school board had to ask the City Council to use the city’s general fund to cover the deficit, the school board this year will use funds in its non-lapsing account to cover the deficit. The City Council agreed to create the fund in 2021 and has allowed the board to keep portions of pandemic-era budget surpluses over the past two years to cover unanticipated expenses and emergencies. The fund now has $3.3 million, Sirpenski said.
Special education and high school tuition costs combined total $36.4 million, a $3.2 million increase, in next year’s budget. Norwich Free Academy, Norwich’s main designated high school, raised tuition by 7.25% for next year.
Along with the tuition increase, Sirpenski said it is difficult to cut the budget when utilities are going up 11%, insurance is up 8% and there are contracted salary increases. For the first time, tuition totals for special education and high schools combined, make up a larger portion of the overall budget, 37.5% than salaries, which make up 34.6% of the total budget.
The budget includes an 11.7% increase in salaries, including raises and adding the equivalent of 31.5 full-time positions. Employee benefits are up by 6.8%. The increased staffing includes 11 new positions at the Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School to continue an effort to curb disciplinary problems at the school.
The approved school budget will be sent to City Manager John Salomone, who will present his proposed city government budget and a recommended total for the school budget to the City Council April 3.