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Impact of employee benefits on FY2023-24 BoE Budget

Norwalk Board of Education member Sheri McCready-Pritchett. (Contributed)

In the Board’s continuing effort to be as transparent as possible through this budget process, we are sharing some of the finer points involving employee benefits and how they both impact, and are impacted by our FY2023-24 budget situation.

First, it is important to note that the district’s overall budget is not where it was on trajectory to be after receiving no increase to the budget in FY22. As a result of this decision and at the direction of the city, the BoE was asked to fund the shortfall of its budget needs with these federal grant funds. 

During a series of meetings with the Common Council and the Board of Estimate and Taxation in April and May 2021, the BoE repeatedly cautioned against this short-term strategy and warned that this would create a “fiscal cliff” in the near future.

These calls were not heeded, and the near future is now today. Now that these funds have expired, the BoE has again submitted a proposal to shift the allocation of employee benefits that were funded by ESSER Grant dollars received from the federal government. The FY23 Budget request included a proposal to phase in the impact of the loss of the federal grant revenues but that proposal was not approved by the City.

Second, with those funds, which were needed to offset expenses brought on by the pandemic, we funded the salaries and benefits of existing school counselors and school social workers. These items were identified as ones that would fit the grant parameters while also balancing the budget when the Board received flat funding most of these school counselor and social worker positions in this category were pre-existing conditions, with a few exceptions. The majority were not new.

Our CFO Lunda Asmani provides a more visual explanation of the impact of employee benefits on the FY2023-24 BoE budget in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyCb3BGqXog

The BoE did add new positions during the past two budgets, which included existing teachers currently engaged in these new roles. The new positions consisted of 16 math and 15 reading/writing improvement teachers which were completely aligned with the spirit of ESSER funding. We believe that allocating these funds to these positions also resulted in mitigating learning loss. We maintain that the best way to do this is through internal staffing support to students, not outsourced services or one-time costs. These staffing positions accomplished both. Although the pandemic is over, the need for these positions continues.

As a result of the loss of that ESSER funding, that money for these integral members of our team has to come from the local side of our budget. This is one of the most integral drivers for our budgetary ask of a 12.7% increase. In addition to the 12% projected increase in health insurance, these positions that are now being shifted from the grant budget to the local budget also contribute to additional increases in benefits costs.

In summary, our budgetary ask is not to fund a bevy of new positions. We are not asking to launch a new team. We are asking that we are provided just a bit of flexibility so that we may show that we value those professionals that valued our children’s progress, safety and peace of mind during one of the most uncertain times during any of our lives.

To learn more about the NPS FY2023-24 budget, we encourage everyone to visit our budget website at https://norwalkps.org/540240_3?articleID=121888

Comments

7 responses to “Impact of employee benefits on FY2023-24 BoE Budget”

  1. Alexandrea Kemeny

    It looks like its time for the BOE to get creative with their resources. They must realign their priorities and use their resources more effectively. One of their resources are their teachers. Have they approached the teachers to ask their opinion on how to structure the classroom to more efficiently use classroom time more effectively? No. There should be 2 advisory committees of teachers, one elementary level and one secondary level to advise the Board on structuring the school day. I know of many teachers would volunteer their time after hours to solve this problem, and the teachers’ union must not tie the hands of our educators!
    The BOE needs programs to get parents involved to do their jobs as parents to handle all the emotional problems of the students. Schools are to educate: to teach reading and math. Teachers love their students but school is not family. Family needs to get involved and if not…send in DCF. It is the parents’ responsibility to send their children to school prepared tp learn. This needs to be reenforced by the administration of the school.
    There is so much waste and teachers can advise the Board where to make cuts. The Board needs the courage to listen to what they don’t want to hear and the union needs to step aside and let communication open up.
    Just a start but obviously there needs to be many courageous discussions and Estrella needs to be willing to listen. (the biggest problem)

  2. John O’Neill

    The hiring of 31 teachers/coaches was done knowing the funding and the positions were TEMPORARY…I don’t understand why Temporary is such a difficult concept. If someone somewhere needs to be blamed look no further than our Hartford Representatives and our Open Immigration Policies. No one seems to want to do that for some reason, especially no one within the Board of Ed. One more note on Transparency — NO ONE seems to be mentioning the cost of the upcoming Teacher’s contract. But then again, planning is up there with temporary in it’s complexity.

  3. Marjorie Madden

    BOE should have been keenly aware that pandemic funding was not forever.

  4. Bryan Meek

    @JO. I’ve been bringing up the labor contracts. I’m told they aren’t inflationary. We’ll see.

  5. John O’Neill

    Bryan: Not Inflationary? What planet is that coming from? If my Union Leader agreed to a non-inflationary contract in current environment they would no longer be my Union Leader..Thanks for the heads up..I’m sitting here laughing hysterically…

  6. Bryan Meek

    @JO…..Right…..with CPI at 8% it is incredible to hear rumors that the gross wage increase didn’t start north of that as an opening….and that they settle 5 points lower. One can hope!

  7. Bryan Meek

    To be clear, teachers deserve a raise. Teachers. Not the machine.

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