Salaries and benefits, the two largest line line items, were the topic of the public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 Cheshire Board of Education budget Tuesday night.
School Superintendent Greg J. Florio has proposed a $64.5 million budget for the next school year, which is $2 million, or 3.2 percent, more than the current budget.
While salaries are increasing only 1.2-percent, benefits are going up 8.2 percent, according to Vincent Masciana, Director of Management Services. The main reason for such a low percentage of salary increase is because the teacher's union agreed to a 1-percent increase for this year, he said, and other unions are getting only a bit more than 2-percent.
"They have been very, very reasonable," he said.
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Of the proposed $64.5 million budget, 94 percent of it is fixed costs, Masciana said, including $40.5 million in salaries, $9.7 million in benefits, $6 million in support services, $4.4 million in instructional services and $3.6 million in maintenance and operations.
"They can't be reduced or eliminated without impacting the core services offered by the district," Masciana said.
That leaves very little in discretionary spending, he said, including items such as textbooks and software, instructional supplies, staff training and library materials and periodicals.
The district also has a long list of mandates it must fund, including adult education, special education and private school transportation, summer school programs and sexual harassment training programs. Federal and state mandates are handed down to the local school districts mostly without the funding needed to accomplish them, board member Anthony Perugini said.
"More often than not, they are not funded," he said.
And there may be bad news coming from Hartford regarding Education Cost Sharing grant money. Right now the town receives about $10 million in ECS money, but a new formula being proposed may decrease that amount.
Perugini said he has read that the redefinition of the formula may be based on a municipality's ability to pay, which may mean less money for Cheshire.
The board's Finance Committee will continue its review of the budget and accept public input Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Dodd Middle School.
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