Shelton superintendent: Keeping status quo requires 3% funding 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 - A school budget with only required contractual obligations and necessary purchases, no new staff or programming, would still mean an increase of just under 3 percent from the present fiscal year, according to Superintendent Ken Saranich.

The city’s top school administrators, during the Board of Education’s budget workshop Thursday, presented what they said the city’s schools would require in the next fiscal year to maintain present operations without any staff layoffs or elimination of programs.

“This is just to maintain the status quo,” Saranich said.

To maintain present staff and programs, school Finance Director Todd Heffelfinger said the 2022-23 fiscal year budget would need to be $75.7 million, a $2.2 million increase from the present year.

The budget calls for required increases in already approved staff contracts for pay and benefits totaling about $1.6 million.

Other required increases in areas like professional services, which covers IT licensing and subscription costs; special education tuition; utilities and equipment added another $509,000 to the request.

For the utilities cost, Heffelfinger said he chose to be conservative in his estimate, using the amount budgeted in the 2018-19 fiscal year, prior to the pandemic. He said he felt the costs were down during the pandemic because of building shutdowns and more limited use. He said it was appropriate to prepare the budget as if schools will remain open, thus a return to higher energy costs.

The equipment budget increase, Heffelfinger said, is necessary because of the need to purchase more custodial supplies with the need to regularly clean and sterilize all areas of each school building every day.

This budget includes no increase in line items for instructional supplies, professional development or student transportation, officials said.

Regarding student transportation, Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city is prepared to maintain the $3.15 million cost for running the buses into the next fiscal year, and the Board of Education has already stated it would seek to extend the present bus contract, which ends after this school year.

The next budget workshop — focused on personnel salaries, special education tuition and student transportation — will be Jan. 20. The other workshops will be Jan. 27 (facilities, security, technology and capital plans); Jan. 31 (cafeteria, athletics and instruction); and Feb. 3, at which a final vote is possible, according to Saranich.

If more discussion is required, a sixth workshop date has been set for Feb. 8.