NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Manuel Rivera is seeking a 3.6 percent increase in his first budget season.
Rivera’s proposal, which he presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday, Jan. 7., calls for $168.1 million in spending in the 2014-15 school year. Norwalk’s current budget is about $162.3 million.
“Our recommended budget seeks to stabilize certain services, while enhancing and/or improving other essential services for our staff and students,” Rivera wrote in his budget introduction. “We have consensus on an agenda for the changes we need to prepare our students to be career and college ready, and to close the achievement gap, assuring that all students in our wonderfully diverse community will achieve to his or her highest potential.”
Rivera’s plan outlines one main goal for Norwalk Public Schools: to eliminate the achievement gap by 2020. Other objectives include making sure Norwalk’s children are prepared to enter kindergarten and are “career and college ready” by graduation, as well as meeting Common Core State Standards for math and language arts and boosting overall student performance.
Much of the proposed increase will go toward staff salaries and benefits, which are expected to rise by a combined $5.1 million next school year. Most of the difference comes from contractually-obligated salary increases and new healthcare obligations under the Affordable Care Act.
Costs of special-education programs also are expected to rise next year, to cover a reorganization of the department and to pay for rising tuition for students who attend programs outside of the public schools system. Transportation costs will also go up under a new contract with First Student bus company.
Rivera also hopes to introduce a multi-year plan to the district to better track spending over time. Under his plan, Norwalk would keep its per-pupil spending at the same rates over time, and the district would hire no new staff except for a “reserve teacher” to keep up with rising enrollment.
The budget proposal also includes a $5.8 million allocation for capital projects. The largest portions of capital proposal include $2,358,000 for new books, computers and other equipment needed for the switch over to the Common Core State Standards and Connecticut’s new electronic standardized tests.
Another $1,725,000 of capital spending would go toward school security upgrades, specifically repairing intercom systems and installing more security cameras. Other capital projects include PCB remediation at Rowayton School and repaving school parking lots and sidewalks.
The full proposed budget is available for reference at the Norwalk Public Schools website.