GLASTONBURY – School principal Alan B. Bookman is calling for a 3.8% increase in city spending on education for the 2022-2023 school year, which he acknowledges is ” one of the biggest budget increases I have asked for since I became director 17 years ago “.
Bookman explained in a letter to the Board of Education that the $ 4.3 million increase he is seeking “is designed to meet the needs of students during the pandemic (and, hopefully, its aftermath) while also reflecting the increase in the cost of living “.
The proposed increase would bring the city’s education credit to $ 117.9 million for the next school year. When grant spending and some additional appropriations are included, the total proposed spending for education reaches $ 121 million, up from a comparable figure of $ 116.7 million this school year.
Employee salaries and benefits, which together account for over $ 100 million of the budget, also account for most of the increase requested by the superintendent, some $ 2.9 million.
The wage increase for current employees, determined in large part by collective agreements, represents some $ 2.1 million of that amount.
Another “budget driver” cited by the Superintendent is the proposed creation of “Student Support Centers” at Gideon Welles School for Grades 5 and 6, Smith Middle School and High School for a total of $ 391,000. . It would pay for one counselor and one paraprofessional in each of the three centers.
Bookman told the school board during a budget workshop Monday night, held by teleconference, “The mental health needs of children across the country have skyrocketed” in recent years.
A brief explanation in the director’s detailed budget “book” indicates that the support centers would offer assistance to students returning from the city’s LINKS special education program and inpatient mental health care.
The centers “will offer students access to mental health support to fight against school avoidance / refusal, post-hospitalization support, anxiety and depression in a therapeutic environment within home schools in order to facilitate smooth transition to their courses, ”the budget book explains.
Another budgetary factor is the addition of 18 full-time paraprofessionals in special education for $ 577,000, according to the superintendent. This increase would be partially offset by the elimination of 12 part-time paraprofessional positions as part-time workers leave their jobs for full-time positions in other school systems, he explains.
Bookman said additional paraprofessional staff are needed to meet the school system’s legal obligation to implement individualized education plans for special education students, ensure the safety of all students, and provide “access to the general education program for disabled pupils”.
The total number of enrollments in the local school system is expected to drop 0.9% to 5,488 students over the next school year, according to the superintendent. This drop is expected to occur almost entirely in the city’s middle and high schools, with high school enrollment declining by 75 students, or 4%, while K-5 enrollment is expected to increase by 36 students, or 1.5. %.
Thus, the superintendent proposes to add a teacher at the elementary level, while eliminating three teaching positions at the secondary level.
Other budget factors cited by the Superintendent include $ 216,000 for software and “online applications”, $ 257,000 in expected increases in heat and other fuels, and $ 784,000 simply attributed to “inflation.”
The school board will continue to study the budget during workshops on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. He is expected to adopt his version of the budget on Monday.
City council will make the final decision on total education spending, but the school board will decide where to make the cuts that council requires.
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