Meriden BOE votes to back $107M school spending plan

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MERIDEN — The Board of Education on Tuesday night voted to back school officials’ proposed $107.12 million spending plan for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.

That plan, if packaged and adopted into the eventual city budget proposal this spring, would increase local education spending by a little more than $4.94 million over the school district’s current operating budget. That budget is $102.18 million, according to district figures. 

District leaders said there are no staffing changes proposed in the plan. Officials are also not recommending any new programs, essentially making the budget a level service proposal. 

Based on figures shared by district officials, the expected additional city contribution would be $2.74 million, with $2.2 million to be covered through an expected increase in state Alliance District funds. 

The four primary drivers of the budget increase include employee salary and benefit costs, as well as increases in building heating expenses and out-of-district special education placement tuition costs. 

According to district budget figures, those anticipated costs include a more than $3.29 million increase in overall employee salary and benefit costs. Those totals include salaries for certified and classified staff, and benefits including health insurance, life and disability insurance, severance, social security contributions and retirement. Altogether those projected costs total just under $79.5 million. 

Another cost driver is tuition expenses for special education students who are placed in out-of-district programs. According to budget figures shared by school officials the projected cost for those placements in the upcoming year is expected to be around $8.36 million. 

Michael Grove, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said at this point while district officials are not recommending cutting positions, there will be some staffing attrition in positions that are currently funded through the district’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Once vacated, those positions will not be refilled, and remaining ARPA dollars will be reallocated elsewhere. The school district presently has 140 such positions. 

The board’s vote to support the budget request came during the board’s regular meeting. It followed a similar vote by the board’s Finance Committee earlier in the evening.  

According to city Finance Director Kevin McNabola, the city’s budget calendar includes department budget reviews that will take place throughout this month and February. City officials will also develop an overall city capital plan in February. City Manager Timothy Coon is scheduled to submit his budget recommendations to the City Council by March 1, with the council set to review the proposal and each department’s requests throughout March and April.

More than half of the school department budget is supported through state Education Cost Sharing Grant funding. Meanwhile, city funds account for roughly a third of the department’s revenues, with the remainder coming from federal funds and other sources. 

During Tuesday night’s finance committee meeting, Grove described special education staffing as a shortage area in Meriden and other school districts statewide. For example, the district is currently short four school psychologist positions. Such services are being filled through the hiring of consultants, who cost more, but work fewer hours, Grove explained.



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