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NPS responds to Common Council statements

The Board of Education and Norwalk Public Schools would like to address incorrect information that was presented at Thursday’s special meeting of the Common Council Finance Committee, following the public hearing.

On health insurance estimated costs:  There was no budgeting error, padding or incompetence in the forecast of health insurance benefit costs for 2021-22.  From the early stages of the budget cycle through to the most recent public meetings, we emphasized that the State of Connecticut had not yet released any information on next year’s rates under the State health plan that covers our employees.

It was repeatedly specified that we were relying upon the recommendations of the District’s health insurance consultant, who also serves as the health insurance consultant to the City of Norwalk and the consultant to the State 2.0 Partnership Plan.  Since the State had not yet started working on next year’s rates, our health insurance consultant recommended the 11.5% increase, based on an overall health trend that she projected at 8.0%, plus a 3.5% addition for the State’s move to phase-in a regional rate structure that takes our Fairfield County location into account.

We were clear with the City’s Finance Committee in January that more accurate figures would be available by the time the Council needed to set the budget cap. We made and kept a commitment to relay any updates to the estimate as soon as any new information was available, which we did. The result was the Board’s vote on February 16 to reduce the recommended budget request to 4.6%, based on this new information.

End of Year Surplus:  Through very careful management, Norwalk Public Schools spends 98.5% to 99.5% each year of our budgeted appropriation. That low level of budget surplus actually represents highly responsible financial management. We are subject to extreme penalty if we overspend our budget, so we are very, very careful not to do so. That can be a huge challenge at times, because unlike the City, Norwalk Public Schools does not have a contingency or fund balance to draw down for an emergency. In addition, our typical surplus of between .8% and 2.0% is considerably less than the annual surplus of 1.3% to 3.5% that has been routinely returned by the City in recent years.

2 comments

John O'Neill February 21, 2021 at 9:22 am

I find it interesting that these 4 words are used in the same sentence. “Incompetence” “State” “Health Costs” —
Think about that as Public Option for Health Plans is debated in Hartford. Our legislators who claim to have business backgrounds are lining up behind our state comptroller Kevin Lembo in support of this. Yes, the same Lembo who’s pedigree includes an on-line degree and continues to push for PET INSURANCE for state employees…

Need for More Data February 21, 2021 at 12:35 pm

I’d feel better if we had an answer regarding the additional hiring that has been occurring this year. I don’t know if my list is complete, but administrative positions I know of include:
1. a 2nd humanities administrator
2. a 2nd STEM administrator
3. an early childhood administrator
4. a director of school quality (in addition to the already existing school improvement administrator)
5. an administrator to oversee the tech coaches whose positions were created and filled within recent months
6. a fulltime consultant who has worked in varying administrative capacities since Dr. Estrella’s arrival
7. another new position, a director of SRBI
8. a supervisor of related services (I think another new position)

Someone should take a look at the third floor because there is no office space left up there. Also, understand that of the positions listed above, nearly all pay at least $180,000.

To counter the argument about the cabinet position in HR that has already been cut, that position was replaced with a non-cabinet administrator who makes not that much less than the previous head of HR. The other cabinet position that will be cut is the person in charge of special education, and I guarantee that there will be a replacement administrative position created at a slightly reduced pay.

It’s time for a headcount of all board of education personnel, by position and by salary. It is also time for reporting of all additional funding that the board of education receives because it amounts to many millions of dollars. And, in addition to the grant funds already committed to the district, there is the near certainty of a large additional amount of COVID funds – in addition to the $9.2 million in COVID funding already committed to NPS. It matters not that the funds may be restricted in their use; it is still funding that the board has, and most of the funds will be paying expenses that the operating budget would have to fund otherwise.

Finally, as uncomfortable as it is, this is public money, and the expenditures are a matter of public record. Please don’t disrespect the taxpayers by asking that they just accept your stated budgetary needs. Taxpayers deserve better than that.

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