NORWALK, Conn. – While the Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation pores over the proposed budgets from every city department in search of $500,000 worth of cuts, the Board of Education just might have a solution – take it from the schools.
“When was the last time the BoE helped the city with a budget problem? “BOE Chairman Mike Lyons rhetorically asked in an email to Nancy on Norwalk Wednesday night.
So how is it the BOE can find $500,000 extra in its budget?
Insurance. The Norwalk Public School System is self-insured and maintains an account to cover contingencies based on a complex set of factors. (To see NPS Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl’s full explanation, click here: Insurance Surplus Budget Adjustments)
In a nutshell, conservative projections in the current budget led to a budget surplus of $1,984,572.
Superintendent Manny Rivera and Rudl have plans for some of that surplus, plans that will be debated by the full Board of Education and voted on in April, Lyons said. This includes funding for P-Tech Academy (P-Tech), including an academy director and a technology assistant at a combined $167,329 in salary and benefits.
Rivera would also like to hire a K-5 literacy director at $170,731 salary, taxes and benefits; a school safety and security coordinator (teacher on assignment) ) to lead school safety, school climate, bullying and related initiatives at a cost of $111,794 in salary, benefits and taxes; four teachers originally budgeted in Alliance that were moved back to the local budget to to projected disallowance by the state education commissioner ($378,327); carry forward of special education transportation budget transfer ($150,000); carry forward of special education tuition/consulting services ($12,285); an additional class size aide (Kendall) ($28,135); move a half-time technology coach from Alliance to local to free up fiscal year 15/16 alliance funding to ensure funds are available for a second year of Common Core Instructional Site Director ($42,210 salary and payroll taxes); and additional deposit into the insurance trust fund over existing projections to provide additional preventative funding for margin in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budgets ($423,761).
The total of all of the above is $1,484,572.
“After adding these items back into the budget,” Rudl wrote in his presentation, “we would have excess funds of $500,000 which could be returned to the City, with a Total Base Budget in FY 14/15 of $166,430,865, a 2.56 percent increase over current year’s.”
“This would allow the BoE to absorb the entire $500K cut in the cap set by the council,” Lyons said in his email, “so the BET would not have to find those cuts in the other departments’ budgets.”
But would adding the positions create a problem in the budget going forward if insurance overages are not as high in the future?
“Since our three-year projection was based on an insurance cost base $2M per year higher than actual,” Lyons wrote, “the savings from that base should cover these positions in future years (i.e., this isn’t a one-time windfall – its a long-term saving based in the conversion to HSA accounts, which will remain in effect in future years).
“That being said, of course, if tough budgets come in the future there could be an impact,” Lyons continued, “but eight additional positions on top of over 1,100 existing employees is a pretty small change.”
Lyons said he expects “strong support” from the BOE for Rivera’s and Rudl’s proposal “since it is consistent with our strategic plan.”