NEWINGTON – The Board of Education is now in the process of reviewing the superintendent of schools’ proposed $77.4 million spending plan for 2021-22, representing an increase of less than one percent over current spending.
Superintendent Dr. Maureen Brummett presented her proposal to the BOE at its first meeting in February and members will continue going over funding allocations during special workshop meetings all this month. They have an opportunity to make changes to the draft before potentially adopting their budget Feb. 24 and transmitting it to the town manager. Brummett and Board Chairman Paul Vessella will then move forward with presenting the schools’ budget request to the Town Council March 23.
The current proposed increase is at .84% but could change depending on actions taken at upcoming work sessions.
“I believe very strongly in coherence,” Brummett said during her presentation. “Everything you see in this budget directly relates to the board’s goals and our district’s strategic plan. The budget also aligns with my Theory of Action, which this year is to have our NPS community work together to support social-emotional learning and highly-engaging instructional practices, then our students will experience an equitable learning environment designed for optimal student achievement.”
The superintendent spent the last few months working alongside school administrators and finance staff to streamline the next year’s budget, which represented an original increase of 7.13% or a total of $82.3 million.
The largest drivers are contractual with employee salaries up 2.06% and benefits up 1.35%.
The proposal utilizes $2 million from the board’s non-lapsing fund to offset these increases. Meanwhile, education technology has increased .31% and special education – which has risen significantly over the last two decades, represents just a .18% increase this year.
Gov. Ned Lamont is giving school districts Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER). Newington is slated to receive $1.3 million in ESSER funding, which will offset budget costs and allow the district to expand intervention and security staff. This funding has a two-year life span and must be expended by Sept. 2023.
The BOE budget has a mandated bottom line each year set at the prior year’s allocation.
Board members raised concerns that using the non-lapsing funds could lead to higher requests in coming years since that money will not recur. Brummett assured them revenues coming in from several areas and federal grants related to the ongoing pandemic would likely make up for the loss.
Implications should the board or town decide to cut the budget further, Brummett said, would lead to layoffs and larger class sizes, ultimately impacting student achievement and school morale.
“We already utilized all our resources,” she said. “With a point-84 (percent increase), hopefully it’s quite clear we cut just about all we can and anything now going forward would result in personnel reductions.”
The BOE’s Capital Improvement Fund has a hard cap of $1.2 million. On a potential project list being finalized by a joint facilities committee is the Newington High School roof.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.