While acknowledging that he did all he could to keep expenditures down, Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel unveiled a budget proposal for the 2012-13 school year that raises school system spending by 2.78 percent, while eliminating 40 positions previously funded through federal stimulus money.
Kisiel's budget proposal for the 2012-13 school year amounts to an overall budget of $102,051,613, a $2.76 million increase over the current year's budget of $99,287,515. He said the primary expenditures in the budget, and which necessitated the increase, were costs for salaries and benefits for employees, special education funding, transportation funding and utility expenses.
"When 90 percent of your budget is tied up in non-negotiable items, where do you go?" Kisiel told Patch Friday. "There isn't much left to cut."
Kisiel's budget proposal also does not fund 40 school system positions that have been funded for the last several years by federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787-billion "stimulus bill" passed by Congress in February of 2009. That bill, and its funding, expired at the end of the previous school year, but former Superintendent Kathleen Ouellette plugged the hole in the current school budget with funding from the Education Jobs Fund, a $10-billion grant approved by congress in the summer of 2010.
"Everybody who was hired under the Federal Jobs Fund, 40 people, are not being rehired," Kisiel said. "The positions are not being recovered."
Kisiel said the 40 positions break down to about 30 paraprofessional positions, and 10 "teaching type people," including an assistant principal at Manchester High School and a part-time assistant principal at Buckley Elementary School.
The proposed budget also adds six positions, three new pre-school teachers and three new paraprofessionals, to help the school system implement its new required under its new racial balance plan.
Kisiel said the budget does not include wage increases for teachers, the largest percentage of school system staff, while contracts for most other school system employees are still in negations. He said the budget does include an increase in pay of $537 for teachers at the maximum salary step, which he said worked out to about 60 percent of the town's approximately 600 teachers.
The current year's school system budget, $99.28 million, proposed by former superintendent Kathleen Ouellette, was a 1.7 percent increase over the previous year's budget.
"There's small things all over the place, but if you go through those slides you'll notice that we cut back," Kisiel said of his budget proposal. "Anywhere I could find a dollar, I simply took it."
The Board of Education will hold a series of budget workshops in January, before deciding whether to endorse or amend Kisiel's budget proposal. If the school board votes to endorse Kisiel’s plan, it would then go before the Board of Directors, which has the final say on the town’s overall budget.
Kisiel said, while he tried to be as conservative as possible in constructing his budget proposal, while trying not to impact educational programs, he has identified additional areas of savings should the school board or Board of Directors ask for further cuts.
Kisiel said about $700,000 could be saved by closing Nathan Hale Elementary School, which the school board heard earlier this week , and an additional $350,000 could be saved by delaying the implementation of the school system's , which Kisiel said might not be necessary should Nathan Hale be closed and its students moved to other elementary schools in town.
"These are things that I'm looking it, because I'm anticipating that I'm going to be told I have to cut it," he said.
Editor's Note: A PowerPoint presentation detailing Kisiel's proposed budget, which was presented to the Board of Education on Wednesday, is attached as a PDF to this article.