New London school superintendent proposes 2.5% budget increase

New London — School Superintendent Manuel J. Rivera presented his recommended $64.6 million budget to the Board of Education on Tuesday that includes a proposed 2.5 percent increase for the city’s share of costs.

If it remains untouched, the budget for fiscal year 2017 will require $43.5 million from the city as compared to the current year’s $42.4 million appropriation from the general fund.

Rivera said the budget accommodates a $2.9 million reduction in state grants and a $1.8 million increase in expenses that include contractual agreements.

The school expects to receive $21.1 million from the state this year compared to the $22 million received last year.

“We started about $4.7 million in the hole,” Rivera said.

Despite the losses, Rivera said the total budget represents just a $135,122, or 0.21 percent, increase over the current $64.5 million spending plan.   

Salaries in the proposed budget represent the largest expense at $34 million, a 7.54 percent jump from the $31.7 budgeted in the current year.

Along with the 3 percent increase in teachers’ salaries approved this year, Rivera said there are some positions that previously were funded through state grants that will be absorbed into the budget.

As the city’s magnet schools continue to attract out-of-district students, enrollment in the next school year is projected to increase by 171 students, for a total of 3,501.

But despite threatened cuts in magnet school funding at the state level, the budget projects an increase of $2.7 million in magnet school funds, from $8.2 million to $10.9 million.

The budget flat funds maintenance at $233,801. Rivera said he was hopeful the city would increase its own maintenance budget for the benefit of the schools.

He said he also expects to use a portion of state grant funds obtained this year to offset some capital improvements aimed at defraying maintenance costs.

Rivera said the school district drastically changed the way it developed its budget this year, moving away from the student-based budgeting and paying more attention to a staffing model that provides more equitable allocations to meet the needs of the individual schools and their programs.

The school board applauded Rivera’s 191-page budget proposal with member Zachary Leavy calling it “the most transparent I’ve seen come out of the superintendent’s office.”

The budget breaks down line items for each individual school and provides more detail than in years past, Rivera said.

For example, the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School budget now includes four separate budgets for its STEM magnet, arts magnet, Renzulli program and development of a leadership, language and culture pathway.

Board of Education President Margaret Mary “Peg” Curtin said the proposed 2.5 percent increase was “very reasonable.”

She said “we’ve got a long trail ahead of us,” with the budget now to come under scrutiny of the school board, mayor and eventually City Council.

The school board starts budget deliberations on Wednesday.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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