MERIDEN — The Board of Education has agreed to a deal with New Britain Transportation that will save about $330,000.
Under the arrangement reached Tuesday, the board will pay 83 percent of its daily busing costs for the remainder of the originally-scheduled school year.
School districts statewide are making similar deals with bus companies to shave transportation costs. Schools have been closed since March 13.
Two weeks ago, Meriden Public Schools reached an 80 percent deal with Hunter’s Ambulance and Transportation that saved $112,000. The district appropriated $6.1 million for student transportation in 2020.
When ordering the schools closed, Gov. Ned Lamont told towns and school administrators to negotiate with the bus companies to continue paying the salaries and benefits of employees. Meriden and Southington have renegotiated bus contracts. Wallingford and several other towns have refused to pay.
On Tuesday, Lamont told the Record-Journal he would leave the negotiations between the towns and the bus companies.
The $330,000 is part of an overall $400,000 reduction in expenses from the school closure reported to the City Council’s Finance Committee last week. Another $100,000 will come from athletics-related savings.
“The savings from the New Britain Transportation contract was the anticipated savings that we brought forward last week,” said Board of Education President Robert Kosienski Jr. “We knew we needed to get to a specific number. Through good negotiating we were able to do so with New Britain Transportation.”
Education officials have informed the city they plan to return those savings back to the city at the end of this fiscal year. The city will then put those funds toward next year’s budget, effectively lowering the tax burden.
The finance committee voted last week to increase funding to the Board of Education by $649,000, up from the education funding increase of $521,000 that City Manager Tim Coon proposed in his pre-pandemic budget.
City Councilor Michael Carabetta, a member of the finance committee, suggested that the school board keep the $400,000 and the city would give them an additional $249,000.
Given that Connecticut’s minimum budget requirement generally prohibits municipalities from budgeting less for education than the year prior, Carabetta pointed out that the proposed $649,000 increase would become a part of every budget beyond this year.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati spoke in favor of providing the full $649,000 increase because Meriden ranks third-to-last among all 166 school districts in Connecticut in per-pupil spending.
“That’s not something we should be proud of, and if we want to keep reducing the increase, we’re going to be last,” Scarpati said.
The public will be able to submit comments on the budget by either calling in during a public hearing scheduled for Monday or emailing comments, said Finance Chairman Michael Rohde. Further instructions will be released later this week, he added.
New Britain Transportation serves Meriden, Berlin, New Britain and Southington school districts. Company representatives could not be reached for comment on the negotiations.