The Board of Education approved passing their budget with an 11.24 increase to the board of finance on Monday night.
The 2016-17 budget request increase is $137,047,362. The present board of education budget is $123.2 million.
Board member Merrill Gay, the lone vote against it said, “So we are forwarding a budget we know is $15 million short of what we need to adequately serve our kids?”
“When you say it like that, 11 percent increase does not seem so unreasonable,” said Sharon Beloin Saavedra, board president. “Six percent just keep it at status quo.”
The BOE budget includes 80 new full time positions including 17 paras, 13 special education teachers, 2 speech pathologists, 2.5 nurses, 2 behavior support personnel, 1 custodian, 1 security guard, 5.5 office clerks, 1 transportation manager, 1.5 secretaries, 2 media teachers, 1 guidance counselor, 12 reading teachers, 1 gifted teacher, 10 classroom teachers, 2 fine arts teachers, 3 coordinators and 2 Assistant Principals. The positions cost is $5.8 million. Non-personnel proposed additions increase by $1.9 million.
“A school district will always find a good reason and good way to spend money. We don’t work from a status quo standpoint. Even when our funding is flat, it’s not like we just copy and paste the budget from last year,” said Nicholas Mercier, vice president of the board. “We created a satellite careers academy within the confines of a flat funded budget. The board and staff are constantly working to reprioritize how funding is spent. I think it’s important everyone understands we are not accepting money and doing same old thing.”
Mercier added that 4 of last 5 years there has been an increase on the City side of the budget.
“There are increases on the city side to address their needs. If they are spending money on that side to affect the changes they want, they should also be willing to give the money to education to bring about the changes they are asking,” said Mercier.
Board Member Elaine Zottola requested the City give the board other money she feels it owes the schools.
“There is $4 million plus that comes into City for a special education reimbursement. We never see that money,” Zottola said. “That is how they put up new street lamps. This should not happen on the backs of our children. They need to give us that money.”
Saavedra said she argues with the state that the special education reimbursement should go directly to the schools.
“More pressure needs to be on the state to properly fund New Britain,” Mercier added.
The current per pupil expenditure is $13,036. This budget request would bring the per pupil expenditure up to $14,300 which is an increase of $1,241 per student.
Hartford spends $19,336 per student. New Haven spends $17,000 per student. Waterbury spends $15,013 and New London spends $15,252 per student. CREC averages $17,443 (based on NB average of tuition ) per student.
New Britain ranks 158th out of 166 school districts in per pupil expenditures.
City funds (local taxes) contributed towards education for the current year are $45,585,356. Next year’s request is $59,359,070 .
State funding in city budget (revenue) for education is $77,614,644 . The State Alliance grant given directly to the BOE is $12,749,366.
The Board of Education budget now goes to the board of finance who will review and make a recommendation to Mayor Erin Stewart.
Stewart will present her proposed budget to the Council on April 13. The Council then needs to adopt a final budget by June 8.