On Monday night Town Council and School Department members participated in a work session where they discussed the department's requests for the fiscal 2012-2013 budget.
Budget changes include a lack of certified staff salary increases as well as a step freeze during the first year of the district's collective bargaining agreement.
Another considerable change is district staff healthcare and dental insurance, leading to a projected increase of $193,000. In order to curb increases as much as possible, significant plan changes in the newly approved teacher's contract will make the cost to go a preferred physician, specialist or urgent care center substantially higher to persuade employees to use their primary doctors for non-emergency situations. School Finance Director Robin Pelletier explained that members of the School Committee and Coventry Teacher's Alliance have agreed to form a group that will study healthcare options going forward and provide education outreach to employees.
"This will help us try and reign in some of the cost and approach this from a wellness standpoint," she said.
The largest increase to the proposed budget is the Certified Staff pension amount, from 13.23% in FY 2012 to 14.01% in FY 2013, a projected hike of $270,000.
Pelletier also explained that over the past three years, the district's school lunch fund deficit was reduced from $400,000 in 2009 to $243,000 last year by allocating general fund surplus monies to pay the balance over time.
"I've worked with new food service companies and the schools to reduce this number," she said. "Because increased lunch prices are a way to do this, we're trying to reduce it a small amount every year. We can't increase lunch prices to $10 to make up for sins of the past."
When compared to last year, the 2012-2013 requests being made are less daunting and more productive after careful planning and scrutiny on the part of administrators, town officials and Pelletier, as well as the movement of certain state and federal funds to and from the operating budget. A budget request comparison between the two years shows a percentage increase of only .64% after use of the district's fund balance, bring the total budget request to $63,977,856.
Superintendent Michael Convery reminded Council members that since 1991, the School Department has only received $1,388,000 in requested Capital Funds - 8.26% of its total requests.
"For next year we are seeking no increase and I'm happy to be in this position compared to last year," said Convery. "It has taken the Town Council and School Committee months of hard work to get here."
To view the school department's budget presentation, see the attached PDF document.