Berlin's Benigni asks 5.11 percent more for schools

Published on Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:21
Written by Charles Paullin

@CPaullinNBH

BERLIN - Even though staffing cuts are planned, School Superintendent Brian Benigni is asking for 5.11 percent more than last year’s education budget for the coming fiscal year.

“We really tried to put forth a budget that allows us to continue with the opportunities for all students and still move forward, with also being conscious of the fiscal constraints,” said Benigni of the $45.2 million budget request.

The cuts include the removal of the shared assistant principal position at Willard and Griswold Elementary schools, a concept that wasn’t as effective and efficient as planned, Benigni said.

The position was created last year in response to the elimination of the assistant principal in one of the schools, amid the initial cuts in the school district.

The district will add a “teacher leader” position at both schools, Benigni said.

Other cuts include a teacher at Willard Elementary School and two teachers at a school still to be determined.

Also proposed to be cut are noncertified staff, including paraprofessionals, at the elementary schools, as well as stipends for team leaders at elementary schools and for department heads at McGee Middle School.

Still more proposed reductions include custodial uniforms and supplies, technology and contracted services.

The cuts total $736,945.

The overall increase in the proposed budget can be attributed to a 3.25 percent increase in certified salaries, due primarily to the new teacher leader positions, and a 20.26 percent increase in employee benefits, due primarily to a 15 percent hike in health savings account contributions, Benigni’s said.

The budgeted amount for contracted services is up 17.35 percent from 2017-18, primarily because of the funding of the Effective School Solutions program at $280,000.

The program, which provides direct one-on-one help to students struggling with attending school, was supported by parents during last year’s budget process, when it was on the chopping block.

Board of Education member Julia Dennis said that, if the program were eliminated, some students may have had to be sent to another school district, which might cost even more.

Transportation was up 15.11 percent due to increased use and the cost of providing transportation for a student attending an out-of-district technical school.

The district contracts with New Britain Transportation Co. for transportation services.

As a way to offset the cost, Benigni said, the district will be accepting Hartford students from the CHOICE program, which will bring the town an expected $492,049 to pay additional teachers.

CHOICE is a state program that allows students in Hartford to attend schools in surrounding suburbs and the reverse.

The district will need one more CHOICE student to get the expected amount of money, otherwise it will only receive $324,000.

Benigni began with an 11.23 percent increase from last year’s budget.

District administrators requested $744,724 for new staff throughout the district and Benigni eliminated that.

Benigni figured a $618,000 cut in Education Cost Sharing funds into the 2018-19 budget. That is the amount the district received from the state this fiscal year, which he is expecting to be cut completely.

Along with the budget request comes a capital equipment request of $437,631 for technology and phone replacements.

Site and building requests came in at $365,000, primarily reflecting the cost of new vent hoods in the family and consumer science classroom at the high school and of renovating two classrooms at Willard Elementary School.

The hoods may come out of remaining funds for the high school project, Benigni said,

Benigni said the district is expecting 68 fewer students next year.

At a recent Board of Finance meeting, members discussed scheduling sessions with the school board to discuss how to lower the budget request.

The school board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday for a workshop on the budget in the Board of Education conference room.

The board is scheduled to approve its budget on Feb. 12 at its regular meeting, at 7 p.m., also in the Board of Education conference room.

The budget will be submitted to the town on Feb. 23 before the annual public hearing at 7 p.m. in Berlin High School.

The referendum on the full town budget is scheduled for April 24.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or cpaullin@cnetralctcommunications.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:21. Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:24.