Published March 26. 2013 4:00AM
North Stonington - Superintendent Peter Nero's proposed 2013-14 education budget is 5.32 percent more than the current budget.
Approved at a special Board of Education meeting last week, the $12.7 million budget proposal represents the largest percentage increase in recent memory. Over the past seven years, the highest increase was 4.8 percent while the current budget of $12.1 million rose just 0.12 percent after two years of level-funding.
Residents will vote on the education budget at a May referendum.
Nero had originally planned to submit a larger increase request, but plans to join a health care consortium of area schools will save the school district about $190,000 in premium costs, he said. One teacher also left the school district, and another will be hired at a lower salary.
In school board meetings over the past several months, Nero repeatedly said there was "not much wiggle room" in terms of the budget after years of zero increases. In order to balance the last several budgets, teachers and administrators have in recent years gone without salary increases.
Outside of increases for contractual obligations and special education costs, he said, the budget includes $135,754 in new spending. In recent weeks, Nero said several swaps were made in that request - for instance, cutting some computer lab upgrades and reinstating the lacrosse program as well as paying for more new math textbooks.
In order to keep up with new Common Core state curriculum standards, Nero has said he will hire a reading specialist for Wheeler High/Middle School and a math specialist for the elementary school. Part-time help for technology will also be increased to a full-time position.
To make room for these changes, the family consumer science program will be cut, eliminating one teacher, and the hours for one of the art teachers will be reduced by 20 percent for an 80 percent full-time equivalency teaching position.