South Windsor Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kate Carter’s fiscal policy is to never ask for $1.20 when she really needs $1, according to Board of Education Chairman David Joy.
It’s an approach that doesn’t generate interesting news copy, but it does make the budget process go rather smoothly.
Indeed, the school board at its regular meeting Tuesday unanimously approved a $68.12 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which includes a $2.6 million - or 3.97 percent - increase over current spending.
Once again, school board members lauded Carter’s approach to ask for $1 when the school district needs $1, avoiding the gamesmanship that typically marks the budget process in other municipalities.
Carter’s previous two budget requests came in with spending increases of 2.1 and 2.4 percent. The Town Council passed both of those budgets without any cuts, something that is believed to be unprecedented.
The school board is hoping to make history again this year.
Joy lauded Carter’s work on the budget, noting that it meets critical needs, honors the financial commitments the district has with current and former employees, while “exhibiting good financial stewardship and restraint in difficult economic times.”
Over half of the proposed increase - $1.35 million - is in the area of special education, which Carter said in a previous meeting was due to a spike in the cost of outplacements.
In addition, the proposed budget also contains funding for full-day kindergarten, new mathematics textbooks for grades 3 and 4, seven new courses at the high school (including AP Spanish Language and Culture, Engineering and Design and Italian II), and the addition of boys and girls swim teams and boys junior varsity volleyball.
The impact of full-day kindergarten on the budget is $303,876, with the total cost of $522,785 offset by $219,000 of personnel and program grants. Because of declining student enrollment and elementary retirements, the school district would only be adding 4.5 full-time equivalent positions to the elementary staffing, of which two FTEs will be paid through grants.
School board member Richard Mabey, at his last meeting before he steps down on March 1, joined Joy in applauding the budget.
“I hope the [Town Council] loves it as much as I do,” he said.
School board member Diane Behler also supported the budget, but was slightly more reserved in her compliments.
“I wish the number could have been lower,” Behler said. “But I can’t see making it lower. … As much as I’d like it to be a flat budget, we can’t be true to the students and to our town.”
The next step is for the school board to present the budget to the Town Council at a regular meeting on March 15.
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