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Norwalk BoE to consider recommended $11.7M budget increase

An illustration from Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella’s PowerPoint presentation of her recommended 2021-22 operating budget.

NORWALK, Conn. — The recommended Norwalk Public Schools budget for the coming school year comes with a $11.7 million increase.

The Norwalk Board of Education will consider Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella’s recommended operating and capital budgets Tuesday. A vote is not planned.

The $13 million recommended capital budget includes $7 million for a Briggs Family Welcome Center. Estrella’s Power Point presentation explains that this reuse of the “under utilized, decrepit building” at 350 Main Ave., located on a City bus line, and would allow space for:

  • New student registration
  • Multi-language learner testing and services
  • Special education ombudsperson
  • Transportation
  • Health services
  • Food services
  • Community support organizations

recommended BoE capital budget 21-0112

 

The operating budget comparison:

  • $220,124,367 2021-20 recommended request
  • $208,351,257 2020-21 revised budget

Estrella’s operating budget presentation explains that the overall 5.6 percent operating budget increase is driven by:

  • Health insurance – 2.9% of total increase
  • Contractual Wage Increases – 1.5% of total increase
  • $1.5 million budget gap-closing carryover from prior year – .7% of total increase
  • All other increases (net) – .5% of total increase

 

She also notes that department requests were $4.6 million higher than allowed for in the budget. Estrella plans to cut two “chiefs” from the Central Office staff, although the document doesn’t say which positions will be eliminated. A lower level administrator is expected to be cut.

The Board expects to vote on a $60,000 contract with the Connecticut Center for School Change, hiring the firm to work through June on developing the 2021-26 strategic operating plan and a proposal for redesigning central office in support of that new plan.

Estrella emphasizes a need to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on student achievement and readiness to learn. These are said to include:

  • Learning loss for many”
  • Inequity in learning opportunities exacerbated during the pandemic”
  • Intensive remediation needed in literacy and math”
  • Need for additional social-emotional & psychological support”

 

Hurricane Katrina and the 1918 pandemic showed:

  • 2 years or more to recover lost learning
  • Long term physical and mental health issues Economic damage to families affect children
  • Negative impacts were worse for low income and African- American students”

 

NPS plans to shift $2.5 million to fund an additional 16 dedicated literacy specialists at the elementary and middle schools and provide math specialists at all 12 elementary schools. Some of that funding would come from reducing the $1,000 per pupil allocation provided to the magnet schools, first provided in 2017-18, reducing the total from $2.55 million to $1 million.

“Instead of automatically allocating this extra funding without a dedicated purpose, schools will now apply for additional resources,” the presentation states. “This will ensure that limited funds are put to best use in accelerating student achievement across the district. District obligations to programs such as college level P-Tech classes at Norwalk Community College will remain in place.”

Year-end reviews are planned to “document student achievement in connection with magnet allocations.”

NPS plans to save $945,082 by cutting eight positions and plans to “reduce budget for 10 month employees to reflect actual work year,” a “cut” of $545,662.

The budget allows for “mission critical structural and programmatic work” expected to be inspired by the next 5-year strategic operating plan and for middle school sports to resume. “The majority of other necessary program improvements will be deferred until the 2022-23 budget cycle,” the presentation states.

The presentation also mentions “accountability measures … to make sure that funding goes to places that most impact student achievement.”

Health insurance costs are expected to increase by $6,053,909, or 51.7 percent of the overall $11.7 million increase. The presentation explains that NPS switched to a state plan, Connecticut Partnership 2.0, in June 2017 and that the state is recalculating costs, creating county-specific premiums rather than a state-wide rate.

Enrollment is expected to increase but be less than the 2019-20 enrollment, with an additional 334 students planned for.

An illustration from Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella’s PowerPoint presentation of her recommended 2021-22 operating budget.

Contractual wage increases account for more than $3 million.

“High quality education is dependent on people. As a result, salaries and benefits will always be the largest category of any school system’s annual operating budget,” the presentation states. “For 2021-2022, contractual wage increases for teachers, paraeducators, administrators, custodians, nurses and other employees will contribute to a 2.6% increase over last year’s budget. This includes high priority positions and modest annual salary increases for current staff, in accordance with our negotiated labor contracts.”

recommended BoE budget 21-0112

recommended BoE budget 21-0112

5 comments

John O'Neill January 12, 2021 at 11:15 am

This is ridiculous — I’m anxious to get John Kydes thoughts on this. Remember he’s the same guy who told the BOE 2 YEARS ago not to expect large increases again anytime soon…OF course he signed off on last year’s large increase also. What’s the deal John?
Glad to see someone in charge of ELL issue.
Note to Diana Carpio — Find out if Jim Himes ever returned Mayor Rilling’s call from 17 months ago regarding ELL crisis..We haven’t heard anything. Learn how to right Grant applications
Note to Godfrey — Inclusion and Educational Justice Committee should hold parents of students accountable. IF we’re going to have that open and tough conversation I would assume that would include whether or not parents are doing their job.

Taxpayer January 12, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Does anyone know what the $42 million outlay in 2025 for a career and technical high school is? Thanks in advance.

Bryan Meek January 12, 2021 at 10:41 pm

To infinity and beyond!

Seriously, I personally am responsible for this in part by my failure to more clearly point out who works for who when I had a chance to. Not that I actually had a vote that would help us as these things are baked into state laws, but I do regret not being more vocal about our impending collapse at a state level thanks to the irresponsible management of state finances.

JustATaxpayer January 12, 2021 at 11:24 pm

With $80,000 per year police making $222,000 a year while drinking beers and having fun at a hotel, maybe we can work on defunding the police

Sincerely
A conservative.

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell January 13, 2021 at 11:45 am

Taxpayer – you can view the presentation in the Board packet, which is posted here:

https://norwalkps.org/board_of_ed/meeting_agendas___minutes/board_of_education_meetings

You can watch the video of the meeting and hear the rationale from the Superintendent here:
https://norwalkps.org/board_of_ed/boevidmeet

This is a new proposal, and will need to be studied. However, the essential gist of it is to provide technical career opportunities to help prepare students for employment and help prevent youth from becoming disengaged. I know that the Governor is keen to invest in Workforce Development, so there is hope that it can be a collaborative effort.

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