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Four-Hundred Point One Million Dollar Budget Proposed

By Vanessa de la Torre

April 04, 2012

No teacher jobs would be cut under a $400.1 million education budget that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto proposed to the school board Tuesday night.

The 2012-13 plan requests $9.35 million less than Hartford's current schools budget -- even so, Kishimoto expects to add the equivalent of 23.4 full-time positions, including eight teachers.

The school system's prospects had appeared dire only two weeks ago when top administrators gave the city council a budget preview and stated that if current expenses "rolled forward," the schools could be facing a $22 million budget hole.

A major reason for the concern: The $11.2 million federal education jobs grant used in the current fiscal year to avoid significant staff cuts will be gone in July. "Our saving grace for 2011-12 is now our funding cliff for 2012-13," Chief Financial Officer Paula Altieri told council members.

The city is already facing a projected $56.2 million deficit.

On Tuesday, Altieri continued to cite the expiring grant but outlined several areas -- including tightening transportation costs by $2.5 million and dumping $2.9 million worth of salaries due to attrition -- where the district expects to fill the gaps. Schools spokesman David Medina said administrators worked on the proposal up to the final hours before presenting it in the Moylan School cafeteria.

For starters, the schools are predicting that an extra 1,648 students, a 6.5 percent increase, will be in city classrooms this fall, which would affect funding. More students means more state and federal dollars.

The enrollment estimate includes an additional 450 suburban students in Hartford magnet schools, an extra 320 students in neighborhood schools and another 120 children at the Achievement First charter school. And it also predicts that 20 fewer students will be placed in special education programs outside the school system.

Altieri called the latter a "target" that would depend on a student's state-mandated education plan. One of the biggest expenses for Hartford has been tuition for special needs students with severe disabilities; the average out-of-district tuition is $51,220 per student. If 20 students were to transition back to the district, administrators would expect to save $1 million in tuition and $865,000 in transportation costs.

In addition, school administrators are projecting an extra $4.8 million from the state in education cost-sharing money under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed education reform package. The state funds nearly half of Hartford's school budget.

Kishimoto's proposal recommends no increase in city taxpayers' direct contribution to the budget, currently at $94.4 million.

A public hearing is planned for 6 p.m. April 17 at the Kinsella Magnet School of the Performing Arts. The board is scheduled to adopt a budget May 1.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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