Norwich Schools Seek Nearly 9 Percent Budget Increase

The Norwich Board of Education is looking to increase its budget by 9 percent.

"We’ve been almost too creative over the last eight to 10 years in finding ways to make things work, but we’re running out of rabbits in the hat," Norwich Schools Superintendent Abby Dolliver said. 

The school system pays to send students to high schools and magnet schools out of the Norwich district. Dolliver said cost increases in tuition, transportation, salaries and employee benefits, in addition to more bilingual and special need students, are the reasons why the board of education is looking to increase its 2018-2019 budget by almost $7 million from last year. 

The district has faced significant cuts over the last several years. 

"Eight years ago, we closed two buildings, years after we moved middle schools, we’ve cut teams of teachers," Dolliver said.

About $19 million in grants fund 40 percent of staff and programs like bilingual education and world language, according to Dolliver. However, students don’t get world language classes daily. 

Out of the 6,000 students Norwich schools are responsible for, about 3,500 are enrolled in district schools, Dolliver said. 

"Had we received a one percent increase every year for the last 10 years, we’d be OK, but we haven’t," Dolliver said.

Newly elected mayor Peter Nystrom, who has had many meetings with Dolliver, said he understands the school district’s plight and state education mandates, but an almost $7 million budget increase is "unrealistic."

"We really want to have the dollars available for the education department going into the classroom for the kids and so long-term, there’s a vision of consolidating some of these schools," Nystrom said.

Some parents want there to be an emphasis on electives like gym, music and art. Dolliver said currently the district provides the "bare minimum."

"She’s just in kindergarten now but as she gets older, her interests are going to expand and she’s going to definitely want to do more things," a Norwich parent Chiara Azza said.

Tuesday night there was a budget expenditure meeting for the school board to discuss what would happen if budget cuts need to be made.

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