Shelton schools chief: Keeping current staff, services would cost $1.8M

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 — Maintaining current school district services with the required contractual increases next fiscal year would still require a nearly $2 million budget increase, according to school administrators.

School Finance Director Rick Belden presented a 2021-22 fiscal year budget with no additions to the Board of Education during its first budget workshop on Tuesday. The result, according to Belden, would still mean a $1,812,596 jump from the present fiscal year.

The school budget has stood at $72,765,000 for the past two years, the result each year being reductions in staff and services to meet the figure. By maintaining the present staff and services, Belden said the budget would increase to $74,577,596.

“Just to meet what we have now, we are looking at a 2.49 percent increase,” Superintendent Ken Saranich said. “That said, if the board asked to add staff or services, that number goes up. If we get less than 2.49 percent, it will be like back in May, and we will have to come back and determine what cuts need to be made from current staff and services.

“There is a number we have to meet contractually,” Saranich added.

The main driver is staffing, with required contractual increases. Certified staff would increase by $927,770 and non-certified staff would jump by $524,038. The employee benefits list is projected to increase by $95,994.

Tuition costs would rise by $134,024, primarily due to special education tuition costs, but areas such as school transportation and administrative expenses would see decreases.

To avoid a repeat of the $3 million mitigation required after learning the city would grant no increase at all last year, board members recommended holding a joint meeting with the Board of Aldermen to get their thoughts on their budget goals.

Saranich said he has met with city leaders to re-establish communication between school officials and the Board of Aldermen.

“I feel if we better explain our needs, (the city) will work with us,” Saranich said.

“None of us want to go through what we went through last year,” board member Amanda Kilmartin said, adding that she does not want to prepare a budget only to have to “start from scratch” when the city unveils its education budget number.

“It is clear in the budget process last year, there is a disconnect between us and the city,” board member Diana Meyer said. “One of my goals is to bring (the mayor and Board of Aldermen) into the process. If we can’t get them to buy in, we can forget about projecting.”

Board member Kate Kutash, with support from board Chair Kathy Yolish, said her goals are to keep class sizes low, particularly in the elementary grades, and improve the curriculum.