South Windsor superintendent proposes 8% hike in school spending

Jan. 25—SOUTH WINDSOR — Superintendent Kate Carter proposed a 7.95% increase to the 2023-24 fiscal year school budget, bringing total spending to $88,221,342.

Carter said the increase over the current year is largely from the district's rapid increase in enrollment.

From 2012 to 2022, South Windsor was the only town in the state to see an enrollment increase of over 10%, Carter said at Tuesday night's meeting. She said between 2015 and 2022 the district grew by 742 students.

"Our status as an outlier is undeniable and must be the lens through which the proposed budget is viewed," Carter added.

The proposed budget also noted that the projected enrollment through all schools for the 2023 school year is 4,917, a 3.4% increase from last year.

The town's enrollment spike already has caused problems this school year in terms of available space. In December, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the addition of two portable classrooms at Philip R. Smith Elementary School, which was built in 2020.

In November, the Town Council also approved transferring the entire Parks and Recreation Department to the old Orchard Hill School, freeing up the Wapping School to be used by high school students.

The costs associated with the enrollment increase includes hiring staff, including custodians, preschool program staff, a registered nurse, school psychologist, English learner teacher, coordinator of student relations, Timothy Edwards Middle School associate principal, and safety officers at Timothy Edwards and the high school.

The new staff, along with technology related to increased enrollment, is responsible for a $1,069,000 hike in the budget.

The largest driver in the nearly $6.5 million increase comes from contractual obligations and maintenance operations.

Contractual salary increases alone will add $2.5 million to the expenditures. Along with the salaries and other factors under the category such as medical and dental insurance and building maintenance, $4.3 million will be added to the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

Special education costs such as transportation and the hiring of a physical therapist, supervisor and teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing will cost the district slightly over $1 million, Carter's budget shows.

The last notable increase comes from the district's strategic planning, which includes afterschool programming, cybersecurity insurance and a reading program. These, along with the hiring of two safety officers, two instructional coaches and an alternative paraprofessional, allots for $379,000.

This budget increase is higher because it reflects the true cost of one of the fastest growing districts in the state," Carter said.

Multiple school board members said they support the proposed budget at Tuesday's meeting.

"We're making our leaders of tomorrow a little bit more well-rounded," board member Arthur Adduci said. He added that even reducing the increase by a percentage point would damage the kids in the district.

The Board of Education will have their first budget review work session next Tuesday.

Collin covers South Windsor and East Hartford for the Journal Inquirer.