Sunday, April 21, 2024

Budget Meeting

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Proposed Board of Education Budget 2024-25 School Year

Board of Education Finance Committee Meeting

Acting Superintendent Heather Borges is proposing to increase the school system’s operating budget by more than $8 million for the 2024-25 school year, as part of a plan that would eliminate after-school programs and tutoring positions.   

The proposed $133.3 million plan, which Borges presented to the Board of Education’s finance committee Monday, would represent one of the largest single-year budget increases in recent years, despite the suggested cuts.

Why? What are the drivers?

The requested increases are the rising cost of employee wages and special education services. The district must replace millions of dollars in federal COVID-related aid set to expire in early fall. 

“It should come as no surprise that we find ourselves navigating a distinctive fiscal challenge, largely influenced by the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grant funds,” Borges said, referring to the COVID aid that was awarded to help the school system recover from the pandemic.“This substantial budgetary demand is a pivotal factor behind this request.”

The district is currently relying on about $7.5 million in expiring COVID aid that will not be available after September 30th, 2024. To make up the gap, the BOE is proposing to reduce almost $3.5 million in programs and positions, including more than 30 tutors, certain special education-related services, and after-school and summer programs.

District officials plan to shift the cost of more than $2.5 million in salaries from federal COVID-related grants to the state-funded Alliance District grant, which Borges said is expected to grow by about $3 million next year.

Stratford was designated as an Alliance District in 2022 due to its status as one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. Under the plan, the school system would absorb nearly $1.5 million in positions that are now funded by COVID aid into the next operating budget, according to Pamela Mangini, the school system’s Chief Operating officer. 

Mangini said the moves would allow the school system to retain 25 classroom instructional assistants, 22 security officials, a dozen tutors, eight supervisors and department heads, five teachers, a curriculum secretary and a nurse.

If approved, the budget would represent a nearly 6.7% increase over the current $124.9 million spending plan, which Borges acknowledged would constitute a significant increase.

Since 2020, the budget has grown by an average of a little more than 2% a year and only increased by 1.4% last year. 

It is not yet clear if the newly constituted Republican board majority, which took power last month following local municipal elections, will be open to the budget increase. Last year, the board’s Republican members opposed the superintendent’s proposed spending plan, in part because they felt it did not do more to address the expiration of COVID-related aid.

The school board’s finance committee, which is made up of all seven elected members and three representatives from the public, is set to meet throughout February to review the spending proposal. In her presentation, Borges urged the board to compromise with each other during the budget process.
 
“As we embark on our budgeting journey, we’re bound to encounter challenging and emotional decisions and we may not always agree,” Borges said. “However, if we address these obstacles with mutual respect for all stakeholders and we steer clear of blame, we open the doors to building connections and maintaining a solution-oriented mindset.” 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Heather Borges for your thoughtful approach. My fear is that these cuts will only keep us as an Alliance school, low performance.

  2. Is it true that this budget cuts some/all school librarian positions? I didn’t see that info specifically in this article and wondered what is proposed.

    • Caitlin,
      I was told that Friday night. The Crier will be looking into it.
      Thank you for your response, and for being a Crier reader.
      Barbara Heimlich

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