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Norwalk BoE looks to $4.1 million for FY24 budget

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Board of Education’s budget delta has decreased – about $4.1 million can be directed to the budget, lowering the amount of reductions needed to align with the spending approved by the City, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lunda Asmani explained recently.

Additionally, NPS might receive up to $2.5 million in alternative funding through the Mayor’s Office, he said.

In December, the BoE approved an operating budget ask for a 12.7% increase, at $245.5 million a $27.6 million hike from the 2022-23 budget.

The Common Council’s budget cap allowed for 4.6% increase for NPS but the Board of Estimate and Taxation declined to go that high, allowing $226.6 million in school district expenses, a 4% increase.

Asmani, at the April 24 BoE Finance Committee meeting, said he expects $1.6 million more from the State than anticipated, due to Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal.

Additionally, when this year’s budget was set, NPS planned to use carryover funds primarily for the South Norwalk school incubator but also increased health care costs, he continued. Staff turnover and vacancy rates mean the health care expenses won’t be as high as they might have been so his Finance Department expects to repurpose about $2.5 million of those rollover funds.

“So, between the 1.6 and the 2.5, there’s about $4.1 million or so that we can redirect towards the current budget. That still does leave us with a significant gap between the ask and where we’re at,” Asmani said.

The needed reductions will be split, with about half coming from school-based budgets and the remaining $7.3 million from Central Office and other expenses, he said. Both sides are working on it and he expects to have results in mid-May.

Schools are “trying to really look at what we what the needs are, and pare them down so we can hit these significant budget cuts that we’re on the hook for this year,” NPS Budget Coordinator Kristen Karzcmit said. “So so far, so good. Everyone’s very collaborative. And we’re working to solve the budget.”

Mayor Harry Rilling has spoken of alternative funding for NPS, money that wouldn’t be included in the minimum budget requirement calculation as a continuing baseline for coming years.

“Hopefully we’ll have some favorable results on that,” he said at Monday’s BET meeting.

Asmani on April 24 said Rilling has given NPS a range of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

“He has asked us to look at maybe there’s like supplies related to operations or health or those types of things,” Asmani said. “So we’re putting together and list for him and his team to review and give us feedback whether that meets the criteria, because I think what they’re planning to do is to use some of their COVID pandemic grants. There are also some restrictions in terms of what those dollars can be spent on. So we’re trying to kind of meet them with those requirements and also meet the needs of the Board of Ed.”

It’s not definite that the funding will come in, he said. “If it happens, it will be a welcome relief to us.”

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