Superintendent of Schools Greg Florio made his pitch on Thursday for a $64.5 million budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a 3.2 percent increase over this year’s education spending.
Florio said some of his proposed $2 million increase includes new spending on maintenance, equipment and technology -- areas of the budget that have been relatively flat for years.
He asked for an additional $150,000 for repairs in the maintenance budget, noting that emergencies such as a roof failure and water line break at the high school last month forced school officials to scramble to find money in the budget for repairs.
"To continue to fund maintenance at a flat level isn’t going to cut it anymore," Florio told the Board of Education. "(With) sixty-year-old buildings, something is going to go wrong."
He also asked for a sizeable increase for technology, at $242,118, and an $80,000 increase for equipment.
"I’m talking about basic equipment -- music, furniture. We at least need to talk about whether or not that needs to increase," Florio told the board.
In addition, Florio wants another $45,000 to increase the daily rate for substitute teachers, which he said Cheshire hasn’t raised in more than a decade.
He is also requesting an additional $45,000 for training to implement both a new state-mandated teacher evaluation system and the Common Core, a new set of national curriculum standards.
The largest single increase in next year’s budget is for medical benefits, at $740,724, or 37 percent of the increase. He said although the district has taken steps to control medical costs in the latest teacher contract, the full benefits of those measures won’t take effect until January 2014.
Teacher salaries make up a much smaller portion of the increase than in past years, at $175,655, or 8.76 percent of the $2 million increase, according to figures provided by Florio.
In last year’s budget request, raises for teachers accounted for nearly 35 percent of the proposed increase, or $645,969. Florio attributed the difference to the recently negotiated contract, which awards teachers raises of 1 percent next year.
"In the past, we’ve had teacher contract awards of upwards of 4 percent (a year)," he said.
The school board has scheduled a series of public meetings on the budget before its expected vote on the spending plan Jan. 22. The meetings are Jan. 8 ,10 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Dodd Middle School.
The school board must submit its approved budget to Town Manager Michael Milone by Feb. 15. The Town Council then has until April 17 to make adjustments and adopt the budget.