Interim Superintendent of Manchester Public Schools Richard Kisiel presented a budget proposal to the Board of Education Wednesday that would see the school budget increase by $4.599 million in the 2013-14 school year, an increase of 4.57 percent over the current year's budget.
Under Kisiel's proposal, funding for public education in town would increase from the current budget of $100,646,835 to $105,246,451 in the 2013-14 school year.
In assembling his proposed budget, Kisiel said he was sensitive to the current economic conditions, but said he felt the budget he proposed was "necessary" if the district was to meet its stated goals of providing a quality and competitive education to all Manchester public school students.
The largest driver of the proposed budget, and the budgetary increase, is salary and benefits for district staff, which makes up 81 percent, or $84.75 million, of the total budget. Teachers will receive a 1.5 percent wage increase under the proposal, and Kisiel said he also reinstated increases in pay for advancement in steps for teaching personnel in order to attract and retain the most competitive teachers.
'It's important for us to attract, hire and retain the most competent teachers possible," Kisiel said.
Although Kisiel's proposal does eliminate 10 paraprofessional positives, it does not reduce any teaching staff and will largely maintain current class sizes, although Kisiel noted that most classrooms in the school district are currently at or very near capacity as is.
Other items of note under Kisiel's proposal include:
- A 2.25 percent increase in administrator salaries.
- The funding of a new assistant principal position at Manchester High School (that position has actually been in place since the beginning of the current school year, but is not funded under the current school budget).
- A roughly $1 million increase in special education funding.
- The replacement of five vehicles within the district's maintenance fleet, which Kisiel said is larger than normal because replacement vehicles have been needed for years and continually delayed.
Kisiel's requested increase is higher than in recent memory. Last year, his first as interim superintendent, Kisiel sought a 2.78 percent budget increase, roughly the equivalent of $2.76 million; for the 2011-12 school year, then Superintendent Kathleen Ouellette sought a 1.7 percent increase or roughly $1.7 million. Both budgets also sought a greater number of staff reductions.
Several members of the school board remarked that they supported Kisiel's proposal, but noted that the large increase Kisiel was requesting was due to years of trying to simply scrape by with as small an increase as possible.
"Relatively to what we've had in the past, it's a significant increase, a significant departure from what we've had before," Chairman Chris Pattacini noted. "For so many years, we've tried to manage within a one to two percent budget (increase), and it's now finally caught up to us."
The Board of Education will hold a series of budget workshops in January, before deciding whether to endorse or amend Kisiel's budget proposal. If the school board votes to endorse Kisiel’s plan, it would then go before the Board of Directors, which has the final say on the town’s overall budget and could reduce it.