The East Lyme Board of Education got its first look at the draft budget proposed for fiscal year 2013-2014 last night and the bottom line is $42,591,731.
That's an increase of 3.34 percent over the approved budget for 2012-2013, even though the district is anticipating a decline in enrollment of more than 100 students and plans to eliminate one teaching position. However, the proposed budget also includes three new line items:
- All-day kindergarten: $426,475, which covers the cost of five new kindergarten teachers, five new paraprofessionals, classroom furniture and supplies.
- Funding to implement the new principal/teacher evaluation system as required by the state: $133,314.
- Improvements to school security: $50,000 as a placeholder to be spent as needed following additional reviews and audits of the current system.
School Superintendent James Lombardo told the board that the proposed budget includes a number of cost savings. These are most apparent in the following areas:
- Transportation: all-day kindergarten eliminates the need for a mid-day bus run.
- Special education: the school district has increased special education programs, which reduces the need to pay tuition to send students out of the district and saves the district $95,000. "Our special education costs are lower today than they were five years ago," said Lombardo.
- Utilities: switching to natural gas has reduced the cost by $120,000, however, Lombardo said the cost of heating oil remains high at $64,300. That's nearly 60 percent higher than the previous budget.
Salaries and the New Teachers' Contract
Salaries represent the biggest chunk of the budget, amounting to a total of $26,933,731. That's not a big increase from the last approved budget, however, in which salaries totaled $26,367,831.
The latest contract negotiated between the East Lyme Board of Education and the East Lyme Teachers' Association—which was ratified by the board last night—called for modest salary increases: 1.5 percent for administrators; 2.5 percent for teachers; and 3 percent for other employees.
Negotiations, which continued until 4 a.m. to arrive at the final contract, worked out well for the school district, Lombardo said. Under the new contract, teachers agreed to pay higher contributions toward health care. This was an important concession, Lombardo added, because the cost of insurance premiums has risen by 28 percent.
Under the new contract, teachers also agreed to work longer hours after the school day ends for students, which would be used for the professional development. The latter is particularly important as the schools continue to implement the state's new curriculum standards, Lombardo said.
Lombardo said the school district hopes to save some money in salaries by attrition going forward. Seven teachers have announced plans to retire next year, he said, and it's the district's intention not to replace them if possible.
The Board of Education has until February 25 to make any adjustments before it must approve the budget. Special meetings to discuss the budget, including public hearings, are scheduled for the following dates:
January 22: Board of Education Special Meeting (budget discussion)
January 28: Public Hearing followed by Board of Education regular meeting and budget discussion.
February 4: Board of Education Special Meeting (budget discussion)
February 11: Board of Education Budget Discussion (possible adoption of the budget)
February 25: Board of Education is required to adopt a budget no later than this date by statute.
If you'd like more detail about the numbers, the proposed budget for East Lyme School District FY 2013-2014 is attached as a PDF with this story.