Norwich School Board members plan to meet at Kelly Middle School at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the budget shortfall for the 2018-2019 school year. They plan to consult the school board’s attorney to discuss what to do next after city council members only agreed to 3 percent of the 9 percent increase they requested.
Abby Dolliver, the Norwich Public Schools superintendent, said she put forth a responsible budget based on the needs of the district’s students. The total budget request was for $83,074,153.
City council members allocated $78,469,829. That is an increase of $2.2 million compared to the previous year, but it still falls $4.6 million short of the amount the school district requested. Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said a 3 percent increase is all the city can provide based on the current mill rate that was already set.
But school district leaders said they cannot make enough cuts to make up more than $4 million. In the last 8 to 10 years, they already closed two schools, moved middle schools and cut teachers, according to Dolliver. The district needs to continue paying for tuition for students to attend high schools and magnet schools. Those costs are already negotiated and can only be renegotiated every few years. The district also needs to pay for transportation, salaries and benefits.
The student population is also changing, according to Dolliver, and the district has an obligation to educate more bilingual students (approximately 600) and more students with special needs (approximately 100).
There are approximately 3,500 students in the district, but the district is responsible for 6,500 students, including students in high schools, charter schools and schools of choice.
School board members plan to consult their attorney at the meeting and discuss their options with such a large shortfall. Board members are required to pass a budget by July 1.