NEW BRITAIN - The Board of Education was presented with a budget request of $130.4 million Monday night from Superintendent Nancy Sarra and chief operations officer Kevin Kane.
The $130.4 million budget request marks a $4.7 million increase from the district’s current operating budget. This is a 3.72 percent increase.
Much of the increase, about $1.4 million, comes from projected hikes to health insurance premium costs. Almost $1 million of the increased funding request is due to salaries, and transportation costs account for another $900,000.
After the presentation, Sarra expressed hope that the Common Council would not flat-fund the school district as it did last year.
“I do not want to reduce staff. That’s the most precious commodity we have,” Sarra said, adding that if the district were flat-funded it would have to cut almost $5 million from its budget proposal.
The school district budgets between $60,000 and $100,000 for each teacher, so a flat-funded budget could force the district to lay off up to 75 employees, Sarra said.
“That would make such a hit to staffing if we went there,” Sarra said. “To take 75 teaching positions away from our kids is just gutting a system. It’s shutting more than one building, let’s put it that way.”
Last year, the school district asked for a budget increase of less than 1 percent but was flat-funded by the city. Sarra said teachers were very generous during contract negotiations in 2017 to help lessen the blow of being flat-funded.
“We did a really good job last year at mitigating the hit we took,” Sarra said, adding that the district only reduced one teacher and one Family Resource Center staffer last year. “We can’t do that again this year. We just can’t unless we really look to cutting transportation.”
Sarra expressed confidence the council would understand the need to increase funding for the district.
The Board of Education will now send the budget request to city officials before officially presenting the request to the Board of Finance in March. Mayor Erin Stewart will present a budget to the council in the spring and the council will formally adopt a budget in June.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.