BERLIN - The Board of Education is holding a public hearing tonight on School Superintendent Brian Benigni’s 2018-19 budget proposal, then will vote on it in its regular meeting immediately afterward.
The adjusted $44.8 million proposal is up 4.3 percent from last year’s budget. Benigni originally proposed a 5.11 percent increase, but the district was able to obtain lower health insurance rates for employees.
Instead of finding ways to use the savings, Benigni decided to reduce his request, given the tough financial times the town and state are in, he said at a recent joint Board of Finance and school board meeting.
Among the main budget increase drivers are contracted salary increases, benefits and contracted services, said Benigni.
Among contracted services is the $275,000 Effective Schools Solutions program, aimed at helping students individually with mental health issues. A presentation by the director of the New Jersey-based Effective School Solutions is scheduled for Monday’s school board meeting.
Linda Holian, director of pupil personnel services, said at a previous school board meeting that one of the benefits of the program is that employees of the program can visit the homes of students who have issues with attendance. They can then take them to school in their cars, while a district-employed teacher is not permitted to do so.
Cuts are already included with the budget proposal, including elimination of three teachers, paraprofessionals and stipends for team leaders at the elementary school and department heads at McGee Middle School.
At the joint meeting on Wednesday, the finance board said it has to keep in mind the town’s pending budget request. But the finance board and school board agreed they want to avoid a showdown, and would rather negotiate with each other.
Both school budgets are due to the finance board by March 1.
The finance board will have until March 27 to review the submitted budgets. The next day, the finance board will hold a vote to send the budget to the council, which will then vote on April 3 on whether to send the budget to referendum.
The referendum will take place on April 24.
Starting this year, the town and school budgets will be voted on separately, followed by advisory questions asking if the budgets are too high or too low. Finance board members said Wednesday the separation may help show much residents are willing to fund the school and town budgets.
If the budgets fail at referendum, they go back to the finance board and the process is repeated, with a second referendum held.
If the budgets fail again, the finance board will make revisions for council approval. If that budget is rejected by the council, a joint board of all finance board and Town Council members will meet to adopt a budget.
At the school board meeting after the public hearing tonight, members will also discuss a request for proposals for a study on reorganizing the district’s three elementary schools, and the Berlin High School principal vacancy.
The public hearing begins at 5:45 p.m. in the Berlin High School auditorium, 139 Patterson Way. The regular school board meeting follows at 7 p.m.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org