Shelton BOE approves budget with $2M hike

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Administrators cut $400,000 from the education budget, a move which Superintendent Ken Saranich said will maintain present staff and services while keeping a less than 3 percent overall hike.

The Board of Education, at its virtual budget workshop Thursday, approved a 2021-22 budget request of $74,944,205 — a $2,179,205, or 2.99 percent, hike from the previous year. The school budget, as approved by the city, has been $72,765,000 the past two fiscal years.

Saranich said this budget proposal will maintain current staff and services while meeting all necessary contractual obligations. The reductions, he said, will not impact on the district’s offerings but will reduce capital requests that would have gone to the city.

Saranich’s initial proposal stood at $75.3 million, a 3.54 percent hike from 2020-21, but the board called on the administration to keep any increase below 3 percent.

The reductions made included $275,000 for technology and specific building maintenance, and upgrades that would have been placed in a capital request to the city. Those costs, Saranich said, are expected to be covered through some of the $1.8 million the city learned it can access in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“The $1.8 million in COVID relief funds can be used to remove items from the reduce capital expenditures,” Saranich said.

Among the savings was $118,795 in certified teachers — three are retiring and the new hires will come at a lower salary; $61,750 in certified staff tutors, with grant funds being used to cover these costs; $51,754 in instructional software not to be renewed; and $218,157 in Chromebook purchases and $23,100 in non-instructional equipment, both of which are expected to be covered by COVID relief funds.

The main drivers of the budget proposal are certified staff ($39,427,858, a 1.6 percent increase from last year); non-certified staff ($9,790,503, a 6.07 percent hike over last year); and employee benefits ($11,833,116, a 2.08 percent increase from last year).

Another jump comes in tuition costs, which stand at $3,301,861, a 12.31 percent increase from this past year. The main driver is $233,975 added to the magnet school budget to cover the costs of students attending Bridgeport magnet schools.

The district found overall reductions in administrative costs, which stand at $334,224, a $183,746, or a more than 35 percent, cut from the 2020-21 fiscal year. These savings were found, Saranich said, through his reorganization of the central office hierarchy.

There is also some $85,000 in savings on the student transportation line item. The city handles school transportation at a set rate of $3,150,000. Savings were found in the special education transportation lines items and fuel costs.

The Board of Education budget must be submitted to the city by Feb. 15, according to the city charter.

Mayor Mark Lauretti, by charter, must present his budget to a joint session of the Board of Aldermen and Board of Apportionment and Taxation by March 22.