Initial school spending plan entails 7.04 percent increase

Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2017 9:25 pm

Initial school spending plan entails 7.04 percent increase

BRISTOL — When the Board of Education meets with the Board of Finance next month, it will present a proposed 2017-18 school budget with a 7.04 percent increase over the current year.

The school board recently voted 6-3 for the increase, with Jeffrey Caggiano, Thomas O’Brien and David Scott voting against.

Board Chairman Chris Wilson said this year the board is breaking the 2017-18 budget into a general education budget of $89,450,829, and a special education budget of $24,171,510. Extra funds from the state bring the special education budget up to $28,571,510, he noted.

The budget was broken down differently this year to help the finance board better understand the special education costs, he said.

Most of the increase in the general education budget is due to salary and benefits increases across the bargaining units, and even for people who are non-bargaining, and some of it is making up for the shortfall in the current budget plus inflation, Wilson said.

The two boards will meet on Monday, April 3. “Typically there are several meetings and some back and forth on the budget,” he said. “We feel like our charge is to tell the community what we need as a school system to maintain current services. It’s not to meet some sort of benchmark which they are looking for from a fiscal point of view”

“We realize the education budget is hard for people to spend money on but we look at it as an investment,” he added.

At a special meeting recently, the school board members discussed the impact of potential cuts on the district and whether to send the finance board a budget with a 3 percent increase versus a larger one.

Wilson said there wasn’t a consensus but most of the board members felt that the cuts to attain a smaller increase would entail — items such as eliminating custodians, clerical staff, teachers, world language in the middle school, and other programs — would have too much of a negative impact.

Board Vice Chairman Karen Vibert said she didn’t want to see the district go backwards, and she could not vote for a budget that makes these reductions. Jennifer Dube and others agreed.

Caggiano said the thought of the cuts made him “sick to my stomach,” but he felt the board needed to consider consolidation of schools and combining tech and financial services with the city.

Last spring the school board had proposed closing up to two schools to close a $3 million gap between its school budget request and what the city was willing to pay. The controversial proposal drew crowds of parents and educators to meetings to protest the idea. Ultimately the board did not resort to any closings.

O’Brien suggested members wait to get some input from the bargaining units, saying “we either cut now or cut later.” He made a motion to postpone the vote, which was defeated 5-4. After discussion, Vibert suggested they vote on a 6.79 percent increase, but ultimately the larger increase prevailed.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

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Friday, March 17, 2017 9:25 pm.