Five-Year School Budget Plan Unveiled
By Kim Becker
Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley submitted his five-year budget plan to the board of education this month. For fiscal year 2016, the administration is seeking an overall budget increase of 3.5 percent. This reflects negotiated salary increases and benefits for teachers, administrators and other staff members.
According to the Granby Education Association, Granby ranked third from the bottom for teachers’ salaries in Hartford County under the current contract. CREC and towns like Simsbury pay teachers between $8,000 and $21,000 more per year. The salary gap widens with experience and number of years served. Therefore, the Board of Education approved the following salary increases (adjusted for anticipated retirements): teachers 3.25 percent; administrators 2.5 percent; and other staff 2.5 percent. This raise, two-thirds of the budget increase, keeps Granby in the third or fourth from the bottom salary position in the county.
The remainder of the increase reflects expansion of current programs. The preschool program receives the biggest bump due to increased enrollment of preschool-aged special-needs students, a state-mandated 2-to-1 ratio of peer educators for special needs students, and recognition that the current class size is too big. Therefore, $199,000 has been budgeted for two additional half-day sections of preschool, including teachers and supplies.
New administrator and teaching positions include a part-time psychologist to handle out-of-district PPTs for special-needs students, and an additional secondary math/science consulting teacher for the middle and high schools.
The administration pulled back on their goal of every Granby student having a Chromebook device as part of the one-to-one computing initiative. The program will expand up to grades 11 and 12. However, the anticipated expansion to grades 5 and 6 has been halted indefinitely due to breakage issues at the middle school. The program will remain in grades 7-12 until better protection for the equipment can be identified.
The administration has responded to high school students’ requests by funding part-time positions for choral lessons, drama, and the college and career center. Additionally, several new or updated course offerings include big history, contemporary authors and applied algebra II/trigonometry.
Small cap budget
The small cap budget focuses on fixing and/or replacing equipment, furniture, and technology as well as funding emergency repairs and maintenance. These include: purchase of a new 16-passenger handicap-accessible bus and an F-350 pickup truck with plow; purchase of new ovens for family and consumer science, and repair of the auditorium stage lighting at the high school. At Kearns, needs include new flooring for several rooms and air conditioning for occupational therapy and the new preschool room.
Large cap budget
The large cap budget includes several Level One priorities. The district would like to purchase an emergency 80 KW portable diesel generator and transfer switches for the high school, Kelly Lane, Wells Road, and Kearns to prevent frozen pipes and lunch program food spoilage ($130,000). Since the middle school is designated as the town’s emergency shelter, a generator is expected to be installed there once FEMA releases the funding for it.
The district wants to improve school security by replacing glass doors at the middle school, completing installation of security cameras, and installation of a web-based access control system ($342,000). The state declined to fund a grant proposal for this project.
The high school has many large maintenance projects including upgrading the phone system, painting the media center and gymnasium, replacing wood shingles with vinyl shingles to prevent damage to the building, and athletic field equipment and storage. These items could cost $561,000 if protective field flooring for graduations and other events is purchased.
With enrollment in the schools projected to decline by 10 percent over the next five years, the district will need to reorganize. The board is studying alternatives for current facilities, including closing a school, magnet school programming, repurposing a school, etc. Any adjustments will require adherence to state and local codes.
Kim Chamberlain, student activities coordinator at the high school, presented budget plans for fiscal year 2016. The high school teams are doing well and many students participate in one or more teams each year. Interest appears to be high for next school year. Chamberlain asked the board to purchase a volleyball standard /court for the main gym to improve practices and allow more spectators to watch the state champions’ games ($19,000). She also wants to replace the pole vault pit mats, which are rapidly becoming unsafe ($14,000). These mats would last 20-25 years, come with all-weather covers and could be stored in the new storage sheds. She advocated for continued increased funding for the football team. The board of education’s finance subcommittee is reviewing the funding models for all sports, particularly the swimming, hockey and football teams. Ben Perron, subcommittee chair, made clear that any recommendation must come from the superintendent and the board anticipates any funding increases would be implemented over time.