The education board approved the schools superintendent's request for a 5.81 percent larger school spending package of $78.83 million Tuesday whose increase is due mainly to increased teacher salaries.
There is a substantial increase in the purchased services line item — $3.24 million over last year's $894,000 — which the Middletown school district will pay to Sodexo for food services management, waste removal and other services.
Some of the larger ticket items Superintendent of Schools Patricia Charles is asking for are $823,000 more in transportation costs and $89,668 more in computer equipment over the last school year as well as $67,000 in vehicle fuel and 23,686 for Common Core supplies.
The budget does not take into account $3.1 million in Alliance Grant funding the district hopes to receive from the state Department of Education.
The Alliance District program is available to Connecticut’s 30 lowest-performing districts and allows Education Cost Sharing funding to support district strategies to increase student test scores and close achievement gaps. Middletown, along with towns such as New Haven, New Britain, Meriden and Manchester, have been identified as in need of additional funding beyond that the common council approves annually.
Last year, the second that the city received Alliance dollars, Middletown was granted $1,964,723 to spend on interventionists like alternative education teachers, psychologists, curriculum coaches and library media specialists.
Many taxpayers decry increases every year in the spending package something that education board secretary Ed McKeon said is not the fault of the school district and a year when the schools request a zero-based budget isn't in the district's future.
"It's highly unlikely unless there's more federal dollars," he said. "If the state fully funded it the way they're supposed to the burden to local taxpayers would go way down. The way we are funding education in the state is ludicrous. The poorest cities don't have the money the richest towns do."
He pointed to the 2005 lawsuit brought by parents against the state that will soon go to trial which the Malloy administration is opposing claims that Connecticut's educational funding fails to meets the state's constitutional duty.
In an editorial in April 2013 that asks citizens to support the school budget, McKeon outlined several reasons why the superintendent's funding request was a reasonable one, including unfunded state mandates "cripple" educators' ability to teach, Middletown is not spending as much on education compared to similarly sized cities, and the budget is more open and transparent than ever before.
Last year, the board voted 6-2 to approve the $76.47 million 2013-2014 budget approved in May by the common council, $4 million more than the previous spending package — an increase of 5.4 percent.
Budget hearings, open to the public, will take place in April and May and the final budget must be adopted by the city's common council no later than May 15.
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