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Windham ed board mulls trio of budget scenarios

By EKATERINE TCHELIDZE

Chronicle Staff Writer

WINDHAM/WILLIMANTIC — Although there’s no estimate for the 2018-19 school budget yet, the board of education discussed three possible scenarios.

The school system is mulling three different levels in budget increases to the proposed education spending plan.

This year’s school budget was approved on the first try last May.

The approved 2017-18 board of education “general fund” budget is $47,326,163, an increase of $1,374,639, or 3 percent.

That is the figure voted on, but not the full budget figure.

The full board of education budget — taking into account government revenues — is $60,307,979, an increase of $558,925 — or 1 percent.

As the school board mulls budget scenarios this year for next year, the proposed percentage increases are based on the lower, “general fund” budget.

According to the first budget projection, the total increase will be $3,529,007 or 7.5 percent over the 2017-18 fiscal year’s budget.

This increase is caused by the increase in salaries, new hires, tuition for out-of-district students, technology and transportation.

The increase in student transportation has been discussed at previous board of education meetings.

According to Windham Superintendent of Schools Patricia Garcia, there is a need to add more school buses to the district.

“An area of concern for the last couple of years was transportation,” Garcia said.

That’s why $565,850 has been allocated for transportation.

Additionally, the first budget scenario includes $656,000 in technology to cover expenses for teacher laptops, Chromebooks and a server refresh.

Garcia said all teachers are required to have laptops, but not all of them currently do.

Based on the second budget scenario, the increase would be $2,873,007, or 6.1 percent.

The technology isn’t included in this case, with the hope the town will pay for it.

Some board members requested to include technology in the budget because it’s not a one-time purchase and the town won’t be funding it every year.

Finally, the third scenario also doesn’t include technology, but includes $377,600 in efficiencies caused be eliminating staff positions.

The efficiencies were created by eliminating director and coordinator positions, as well as two paraprofessionals and a realignment of administrator positions.

This scenario shows a $2,495,407 or 5.3 percent increase.

The smallest proposed increase, according to some school board members, still might not be enough to get passed.

“My guess is we are going to have a tough time trying to sell a 5.3 percent increase,” Sewall said at the most recent school board meeting Jan. 31. “There is a lot more public support than there used to be, but I still think we need to knock at least $600,000 out of this.”

The question is where to find this money, he said.

Board member Ilda Ray supported the first scenario.

“I think scenario one makes the most sense, even though there is a bigger increase, because it includes technology,” Ray said.

These are not the final budget scenarios and the board will offer more options at the next budget workshop.

The next budget workshop will be Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. in the Windham High School Media Center.

 

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