Norwich school board approves budget with 3% increase

Norwich — As if to illustrate that this spring's budget cycle is far from the norm, the Board of Education on Tuesday approved a proposed budget for 2017-18 that on the surface appears to call for both a 3 percent spending increase with an $8.2 million reduction in spending.

The apparent contradiction is the result of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposal to dramatically restructure state grants for municipal education districts. For Norwich, that would include a new $12.1 million special education grant to the city school district. School officials, however, subtracted $1.6 million from the new $12.1 million new grant to reflect Malloy's plan to eliminate the former special education cost sharing program.

In reality, the proposed 2017-18 budget would total $77.7 million, a 3 percent increase over this year's $75.4 million budget total, school Business Administrator Athena Nagel said. The budget calls for no program changes and level staffing, with 50.3 percent of total staffing being funded through grants, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said.

When the new proposed state reimbursement for special education is applied directly to the school budget to offset expenses, the budget shows a total of $67.2 million, school officials said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the budget, with board member Angelo Yeitz calling the 3 percent a “reasonable” increase. Yeitz voted against last year's initial school budget that called for a 6 percent increase. The City Council ultimately approved a school budget with a 1.9 percent increase.

The budget does have typical features driving the increase, including a $185,898 hike in certified salaries and an even higher $505,466 hike in support salaries.

All tuition accounts, including tuition to Norwich Free Academy and other high schools and special education tuition is projected to total $31.3 million, an increase of nearly $391,000 over this year. NFA approved a 2.5 percent tuition increase for regular education and several special education programs. The NFA tuition is projected to total $21.7 million. Special education support services for Norwich students at NFA would total another $2.08 million.

For the past few years, the Norwich school system has paid little into the city's workers' compensation fund, which had built up a reserve. That reserve now is depleted, and the budget would be increased from $100,000 this year to $500,000 in 2017-18, Nagel said.


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