The Bristol Press article detailing the proposed 4.47% BOE budget increase is below:

BRISTOL — The Board of Education has approved a $111.6 million budget request for 2016-17.

The proposal is a 4.47 percent increase over the current year, of which 3.62 percent is for salaries and benefits. The rest of the increase stems from maintenance, transportation, special education, athletics and student activities, capital and technology and other costs.

The budget now goes to the Board of Finance for consideration.

Jeff Caggiano and David Scott, both Republican newcomers to the board, supported the budget but said the total was a jarring number.

“It’s very difficult as a new board member to absorb all of this and understand where we’re going, but I do applaud the hard work and effort that have been done on it,” Caggiano said.

Scott said it was interesting going over the expenditures and revenue sources and he would like full transparency for city residents to better understand how every dollar is accounted for and the challenges faced by the schools.

“Some people think we should just come in as low as possible for the benefit of the taxpayers but our job really is to identify what our school system needs to build a 21st century education and what it costs to do that,” Chairman Christopher Wilson said.

It’s up to the Board of Finance to determine if the community has the ability to pay that, he said.

Wilson praised the board members, four of whom were first elected just last November, for their hard work in going over every aspect of the budget.

Bristol has a “relatively difficult” school population, with about 45 percent of students on the free and reduced lunch program, he said. “That’s an indication of the level of poverty, and with poverty comes some problems in families. We need to be the safety net for those students and those families.”

Karen Vibert, vice chair, said she would welcome any member of the Board of Finance or the City Council to meet with the school board to go over the proposed budget before they have to vote on it.

Karen Hintz, board secretary, noted the 3.62 percent increase for salaries in the proposed budget is not an arbitrary number but a contractually required increase. It doesn’t take into account the increasing costs of things like electricity, heating oil, gas, copy machines or anything else, she said.

“So this is not a frivolous budget,” Hintz said. “It’s a jarring number I think to all of us. It wasn’t an easy thing for any of us to vote on this number and forward it to the Board of Finance, but it’s a reality-based budget.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501 ext. 1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

 

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