Shelton panel lays groundwork for new school budget
SHELTON — Local school officials are tuning out continued uncertainty over state finances and are laying the groundwork for a 2018-19 district budget same as always.
“Our budget needs to be based on what we think we need as a minimum to accomplish our job while holding costs down as much as we can,” Shelton School Board Chairman Mark Holden said. “If something costs a given amount and we need to do it, we need to do it.”
This year, the district of 4,800 students runs on a $71.4 million budget — $1 million more than the 2016-17.
Schools Superintendent Chris Clouet doesn’t have a dollar figure for the new budget and said the district most likely will be looking for an increase to cover contractual increases in salaries, health benefits and other fixed costs.
“We are hopeful the city will support us,” Clouet said. “There is not a lot of wiggle room.”
Yet, he said the budget will be crafted to withstand some cuts if they are to come.
This year, the state chipped in just over $5 million to Shelton toward school spending — about $800,000 less than the year before.
“We are not looking for the Mercedes version of anything,” Clouet said. “But we need a strong set of materials.”
There are also unknowns. A school administrators contract has yet to be ratified. A new school bus contract is out to bid. Tuition for out-of-district special education students is always a question mark and the district is still trying to keep up with changes in educational technology tools.
There also may be a move to redistrict.
Some elementary schools in Shelton are tight on space, Clouet said, while others seem to have ample elbow room. He told the board during a budget workshop this week that he is finding money in the current budget to hire a firm to study the situation.
“When did we decide we wanted to do that,” Darlissa Ritter, a board member, said.
“We have to do something,” Clouet said, predicting some parents will fill school board audiences if the panel decides to do nothing.
The board will be hold another budget workshop with more details in January.