District administrators presented a budget that saw an increase in spending of about $10 million, while the school board declared March 18 a half-day for students and staff to reflect on the toll of the pandemic.
Zoe Berg, photo editor
New Haven Public Schools’ proposed $200 million general fund budget reflects rising staffing costs in the district while also calling for an increase in non-general fund programs like Black and Latinx electives. .
At Monday’s biweekly Board of Education meeting, Chief Financial Officer Linda Hannans presented the proposed general funds budget for the New Haven Public Schools system, which is one of the first formal steps in the budget process. . The plan has been classified as a “business as usual” budget, which also ensures that the budget is balanced for this fiscal year.
“We are working to create and implement a transparent budget process,” Superintendent Iline Tracey said at the BOE meeting. “This process should be fair and site-based to support the instructional core and based on a balanced budget. We must allocate resources in a way that promotes equity between magnet and neighborhood schools and present a budget that reflects the true cost of operating New Haven Public Schools.
The budget reflects a $10 million increase from the 2021-22 fiscal year, when the New Haven Public Schools system budget was $190 million. The increase is largely attributed to collectively negotiated contract salary increases the district must pay to teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff.
Teachers see their salaries increase by 3.5%, paras earn 2.4% and administrators will receive a 2.5% increase. Together, these increases amount to approximately $6.2 million, or 60% of the budget increase. The remaining 40% is split around non-wage expenses like increased transportation costs — $2.5 million more than the previous year — in addition to building maintenance for New Haven’s public schools.
“This presentation reflects a status quo budget with no changes to programming,” said school board vice president Matt Wilcox. “So it’s pretty much about keeping things the way they are right now. This budget includes the budget mitigation that we’ve done in the past, in order to balance our budgets, which we’ve been able to do over the the past two years, and I know people are working on it this year as well.
According to Hannans, the district is also requesting additional funding outside of the general funds budget for a new health program, ESL and special needs staff increases, additional textbooks, and funding for the full implementation of the Black Elective Program. and Latinx, which was recently adopted. by the state legislature. All of these proposals will cost $7.2 million combined.
Hannans also presented the funding streams the district uses for its budget. The majority of the district’s funding, 51%, comes from state and federal grants.
New Haven is a Title 1 school district, which means it receives increased federal funding due to the city having a high level of low-income families, according to Hannans. The state also provides district grants through the Alliances program, which provides public funding of approximately $11,000 per student to the 30 poorest districts in the state.
According to Hannans, the district is awaiting the final total of Alliance funding it will receive from the state, as there are currently fluctuations in Education Cost Sharing, or ECS, funding the district may receive. .
Hannans added that the district saw an increase in grant funds from $130 million last year to $200 million this year, which can be partially attributed to the district receiving a $32 ESSER II grant. millions of dollars. ESSER II, or the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, was part of the Coronavirus Emergency Aid, Relief and Safety Act passed in 2020.
In response to community members who had called for cuts to central government funding, Tracey said that when auditors were hired by the district to find areas to cut, they were unable to. further optimize the budget.
Board member Larry Connaway told community members at Monday’s meeting that this budget is important because of the number of economically disadvantaged children in the district who can get a better education through a well-funded district. Additionally, he requested that the district provide more information about the economic diversity within the district to further illustrate to the community the importance of a well-funded budget, without the cuts that some community members have called for.
“There are people who don’t believe that some of these children deserve the expenses that we give them,” Connaway said. “At least we can try to win the moral battle and show a picture of our neighborhood that reflects the bare reality that some of these kids are so poor, that where they were before water was a problem, clothes were a problem. problem the food was a problem problem…I have great faith in this council, in the superintendent and in this mayor that we can at least show weight and paint a realistic picture of what we are dealing with.
The budget proposed by Hannans is a draft, which will then be presented to the Council of Alders in April. The Board of Education will adopt the voted budget in May.
The board also on Monday agreed to a half-day on March 18 for the district to reflect on mental health, particularly in light of the approaching second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We encourage all members of the community to participate in this day to focus on their own well-being,” said the resolution proclaiming the Day of Hope. “The day will provide opportunities for students, families, and staff to participate in virtual activities that promote their awareness of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. . During this time, we want family, friends, colleagues, school staff and community partners to encourage one another in the universal promotion of hope and healing.
The New Haven Board of Education has six members, four of whom are appointed and two who are elected. The mayor is a seventh ex officio member.