Cheshire school officials propose 3.4 percent spending increase for next year

Cheshire school officials propose 3.4 percent spending increase for next year

reporter photo

CHESHIRE — School Superintendent Jeff Solan on Tuesday presented his proposed $72,508,781 budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The spending plan adds teachers to handle increased enrollment at the elementary and high schools to reduce class sizes.

The proposal represents a 3.4 percent or $2,382,493 increase over the current fiscal year’s $70.1 million budget. Last year, the Town Council approved an increase of a little over 1 percent.

In his presentation to the Board of Education, Solan stressed Cheshire’s low spending compared to similar school districts. He said the town spends about $1,000 less per student than the state average.

“(Teachers and administrators) work very hard to find the success that they do and our students do with the resources we are given,” Solan told board members. “We’re pretty cost-conscious.”

While overall enrollment is down due to fewer students at the middle school, teachers are needed in other grades. Last year the school district budgeted for 108 teachers and Solan’s plan for next year would fund 111.

He said the added teachers will reduce class sizes at some elementary schools from the low 20s to around 19.

“This budget aims to bring those class size averages back in line,” Solan said. “From a fiscal perspective I think this is still a prudent budget.”

The school board must approve the budget and send a spending plan to the Town Council for final adoption. A host of budget meetings are scheduled starting Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at Dodd Middle School.

Board members had little comment Tuesday night following the presentation, saying they had yet to look over the budget in detail.

Board chairwoman Cathy Hellreich said she was at a meeting of school officials from around the state and state legislators Tuesday morning.

“The big elephant in the room is, what’s the state of the state and how we should be preparing for that,” Hellreich said. She was told by legislators to “prepare for the worst.”

“The focus of their session this year is the $200 million deficit and where they’re going to make up that money. My fear is that they’re going to make up that money in (education cost sharing) funding,” she said.

Last year, the state cut Cheshire’sECS funding by $400,000.

Twitter: @JBuchananRJ