Changes to current school budget recommended in Meriden

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MERIDEN — The Board of Education finance committee approved a series of adjustments to the current year’s budget on the eve of Wednesday’s first day of school.

The changes adopted Tuesday now head to the full board for approval. 

In May, the City Council voted to fully fund the board’s requested budget of just over $102.18 million. 

That total did not include programming funded through the state Alliance District Grant. The school district is scheduled to receive close to $15.37 million in such funding, bringing its overall budget total to more than $117.5 million. 

The district’s overall funds include more than $69.15 million in state aid, through the Education Cost Sharing and Alliance District grants. Meanwhile, federal funding has comprised more than 8% of the district 's overall funds. Local city funding supports a little more than one-third of the overall school district budget. 

More than $61.97 million of the budget total will cover employee salary expenses. Another $14.09 million will cover the costs of employee benefits. Apart from those line items, the next largest expenses include out-of-district tuition costs, at $9.57 million, and student transportation, which totals more than $6.84 million. 

The committee’s vote Tuesday night, on the eve of the new school year, was unanimous. 

The current budget total of $117.5 million, includes a $1.67 million increase in local funding over the current year's budget.

COVID relief funds

Separate from that vote, school officials updated the finance committee on the status of federal COVID-19 relief funds. The first allocation came through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II [ESSER II] funding as part of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which federal lawmakers signed in late 2020. 

The other funding came through the American Rescue Plan Act. 

The school district has expended more than 50% of its ESSER II funds and a little more than 25% of its ARPA funds. According to figures shared Tuesday night, the school district has committed more than $6.1 million of its $10.25 million ESSER II allocation. Meanwhile the district has so far expended about $5.9 million of its ARPA funds, which total just under $23.04 million. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Grove explained that the ESSER II funds are largely being used to fund the costs of temporary staff, intended to provide students with additional academic and behavioral support. Grove noted that those monies came with strict funding rules. 

The district has more leeway in how it can use its ARPA monies, which need to be obligated by Sept. 30, 2024, according to the State Department of Education. 

Grove outlined a plan for spending those funds that includes upgrading air handling and air conditioning systems throughout the school district’s buildings — particularly at multi-floor elementary schools that are not currently equipped with full heating ventilation and air conditioning systems. 

The district is also testing new air purification systems in one elementary school, Israel Putnam. Grove indicated district officials may propose acquiring additional purification systems if those units prove to be effective in improving school building air quality.  

Finance Committee members appeared to be on board with officials’ proposed use of funds. Chairman Allan Pronovost said he is a strong proponent of dedicating those funds for air handling and air conditioning units in school buildings where they are currently lacking. 

“That’s intended to try to improve the environment for both our teachers and our students,” he said. “That would give us bang for the buck in the long term as well as meeting the intent of this legislation.”



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