District presents cafeteria, school budgets to financiers

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
The Bristol Board of Education recently voted to approve a proposed food services budget of $2, 785, 770 for Fiscal Year 2016.
During a Board of Finance budget hearing, Deputy Supt. of Schools Dr. Susan Moreau said the impact this year is about $30,000 more income from the state than expected, and the projected deficit for this year is $173,000. Moreau said that number is less than the past three years.
“We attribute that to full-day kindergarten,” said Moreau.
The current cost of lunch in elementary schools is $3. Since Oct. 1 2014, 47 percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Under the proposed food services budget, there is a request of $15,500 for leases, which doubled from the current year.
“We had to replace al of our computers—they are probably five or six years past the age they should be and would no longer run the software that’s required for the food lunch card system that we have,” said Moreau, adding that the district would be tied into that lease for three years.
Meanwhile, Bristol Supt. of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek presented the school board’s proposed budget of $110.2 million for Fiscal Year 2015-16, an increase of 3.16 percent or $3.3 million over the current budget of $106.8 million.
“In years where we continue to be fiscally challenged, it is our responsibility to build a budget that’s certainly represents the needs of the district, but also maintains current programming without adding new programming or new staff,” said Solek.
Calling it a “maintenance budget,” Solek said the proposed budget focuses on reinstating middle school programming, such as interscholastic sports and classroom music instruction. In 2011, the school board eliminated those programs.
“I feel strongly to offer a competitive, well-rounded and high quality middle school education,” said Solek. “We need to reinstate these two programs into all of our middle schools and K-8 schools.”
Solek said other priorities going forward include commitment to accountability through the Smarter Balanced Assessments, CAPT, AP Local Formative and Summative Assessments, SAT scores, and professional development. Solek also noted technology needs as a major priority, such as chromebooks, document cameras, and wireless infrastructure.
Major expense drivers of the budget increase, including salaries, benefits and fixed charges, operations, plant maintenance, instructional supplies and materials, and transportation. Other factors include students enrolled in magnet schools outside the district, and capital and technology expenditures.
According to the district summary of the proposed FY 16 budget, there is a total request of $84,607,385 for salary and benefits, which would reflect an increase of $2,366,097 over the current budget.  There also is a request of $3,330,768 for the operation of plant and $1,438,030 for the maintenance of plant, as well as $3,530,801 for transportation and $11,768,763 for special education.
About 97 percent of the overall operating budget includes fixed costs, which are contractual, collective bargaining obligation agreements.
“The 3.16 [percent increase] is basically what we need to…turn the lights on, transport the students, and meet our current costs going forward based on our re-forecasts,” said Gary Franzi, director of finance for Bristol Public Schools.