Griswold school budget still a work in progress at $25.7 million

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Feb. 24, 2014

The Board of Education’s budget proposal for fiscal 2014-15 is still a work in progress, but as it stands it would represent a 2.39 percent increase over last year. The current school budget request for $25,725,300 is $601,450 more than the current fiscal year’s budget.

Superintendent Paul Smith said that he asked the district’s principals to submit budget requests with level funding for classroom supplies. “It’s not something I want to do every year, but in order to keep the budget down this year, I asked the principals to come in with a zero percent increase,” he said.

Of the $601,450 budget increase, $95,000 represents staffing positions, including three additional full-time staff members and an increase in hours for a part-time middle school music position. One of the proposed new full-time positions, for a Spanish teacher at the middle school, would come out of staff reconfiguration and thus does not represent a spending increase. The other two full-time positions, for a third-grade teacher and a math-interventionist/coach to serve the elementary and middle schools, would cost $42,000 each.

The part-time GMS music teacher position would increase from .5 to .7, at a cost of $8,000, allowing the continuation to the string instrument program in grade seven. Several people who spoke at the recent budget hearings advocated strongly for that position, including a number of middle school music students.

The staffing increases also include $3,000 to augment athletic trainer services and coverage at Griswold High School. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference requires that an athletic trainer be on site during home games and contests, said Smith.

The remainder of the budget increase stems from contractual or mandated expenses. These include a $156,000 increase in medical insurance; $98,555 for transportation; $79,500 in out-of-district tuition; $67,350 in operations contracts; $39,000 in retirement; $31,375 for heating oil; and $20,000 in FICA and Medicare obligations.

A fair number of requested items have already been tentatively trimmed from the spending plan, including items ranging from new textbooks, tablets and calculators to high school music uniform replacement, to parking lot crack sealing and restriping at GHS. Also included on the “yellow tier” of principals’ budget requests not included in the budget were three student supervisors/security personnel costing a total of $81,000 and a consultant contract for school security costing $19,000.

Smith said that one item in the “yellow tier” that the board would likely consider reinstating is $7,500 in software for the high school that would allow students to re-take failed courses or make up courses missed through transfer from other districts. “Whether we put it in and subtract something else out will be something we talk about” at upcoming meetings, he said.

The school board will vote March 10 to finalize the budget proposal to be sent to taxpayers for town meeting and referendum.

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