Editor\u2019s note: The Board of Education has made further adjustments to the proposed school budget since this article was finalized. Learn more about those changes on this website in the next few days. The Board of Education will not formally approve a school budget request until mid February. The Board of Education (BOE) is looking at a possible budget increase of around 5% for the upcoming fiscal year. \u201cIt\u2019s in that neighborhood,\u201d said BOE Chairman Mark Holden. The current education budget is almost $68 million. School staff and BOE members still are working to finalize a budget plan, which will be passed by the school board next month. That education budget request then will become part of the budget process involving Mayor Mark Lauretti, the Board of Aldermen, and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation. Proposal still being 'tweaked' Factors in the expected school budget increase include higher costs for employee salaries, benefits, special education, and transportation, plus the need to implement a state-mandated teacher evaluation process. \u201cJust about everything is going up,\u201d School Supt. Freeman Burr said. One item that is going down in cost is heat and utilities, due to the drop in oil prices. Burr said he is working on some \u201ctweaks\u201d to his initial proposed numbers, based on BOE feedback. \u201cThey\u2019ve asked us to make changes,\u201d he said. Holden said BOE members have urged Burr to pursue \u201ccreative ways\u201d to accomplish goals with minimal expenses, and the superintendent is indeed doing just that in many areas. Salaries, special ed are factors Burr said salary costs will rise more than 2% overall, or by about $1.8 million. Based on approved union contracts, teachers will get a 3% raise and administrators\u2019 pay will go up about 2.75%, he said. The district hopes to establish new special education programming support as a way to hold down overall special ed costs. \u201cHopefully this will help get special ed costs under control,\u201d Burr said. The district saw an increase of almost two dozen students needing special ed services during this school year, leading to a likely $250,000 shortfall in the current special ed budget. The school system has slightly more than 5,000 students, of which about 600 \u2014 or 15% \u2014 require some form of special education. Burr emphasized that special ed services must be provided by law, and if adequate funds aren\u2019t provided in the budget the money will have to come from other school programs. In the past, aldermen have complimented BOE officials for their actions to limit special ed cost increases by offering more in-district services, which is less expensive than out-of-district placement. Technology upgrades The district hopes to get the city\u2019s support for technology upgrades, including installing new wi-fi access points in schools. Current wi-fi systems are a decade old and beginning to fail, and can\u2019t be repaired, Burr said. A related priority is server systems for all the new Chromebooks that were purchased through a state grant and now also are used in student testing. Burr and Holden noted city officials have been supportive of such technology needs in the past, often funding them on the city side of the budget. Holden said the budget also may include adding certain positions, based on specific needs, such as a media specialist librarian at Shelton High, a guidance counselor, a districtwide English as a Second Language coordinator, and information technology personnel. Math specialists could be brought on board, funded using current grants. The mayor\u2019s view of education request Mayor Mark Lauretti said he is beginning to focus on the new city budget now, and expects some issues will arise with the school system\u2019s spending request. \u201cThe only area of contention usually is the BOE,\u201d he said. Lauretti said he often has to contend with \u201cgames\u201d by the BOE, such as what he called a higher-than-needed initial budget to implement full-day kindergarten during last year\u2019s budget process.