Superintendent proposes 6.19% spending increase for Monroe schools

MONROE, CT – Days off and other one-off concessions from teachers, administrators and staff have helped the city through a tough budget year, but full payment of salaries and raises is now due.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza told the Board of Education that these contractual obligations were factored into his request for a budget of $ 62.1 million for Monroe public schools in 2021-2022, resulting in an increase in expenditure of 6.19%.

“I don’t think any of us are, at least I’m not, completely surprised by the increase,” Kobza told board members at their meeting on Monday. “It is certainly higher than it has been in recent history for sure.”

When the last fiscal year was marked by uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic, Kobza said Monroe was one of the only districts whose employees accepted concessions. He said this saved the district from cutting five teaching posts.

But educators still had to make tough cuts to other positions and programs, and building maintenance and repairs were postponed.

“We are not asking to recover all of this, but we are starting to recover some of it bit by bit,” Kobza said of his new budget proposal.

The superintendent also wants the district to take care of maintenance and repairs, so they don’t have to pay for even more expensive repairs and outright equipment replacements in the future.

Kobza worked with principals and other administrators to create a budget that takes class size into account, provides a rigorous and relevant curriculum with a focus on teaching and learning, and funds technology and teacher professional development. to improve student education.

Distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made educators more aware than ever of the importance of technology and everyone’s dependence on it, Kobza said.

“We know this world is changing,” he said. “We want our students to be able to meet the needs of this changing digital world. “

At the same time, Kobza said educators must strike a balance between high quality education and fiscal responsibility.

The school board will hold its first budget workshop on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., when board members review funding requests for Jockey Hollow / STEM Academy, Masuk High School and track and field. The public can watch it on YouTube by following this link.

Budget factors

The proposal of $ 62,124,855 is $ 3,622,912 higher than the current school board budget of $ 58,501,943.

More than half of the 6.19 percent budget increase would relate to salaries. With the restoration of days off in the new budget, the new teachers’ contract approved last year will be fully effective in 2021-2022, according to Kobza. Salaries will increase by $ 1,871,558, which represents 3.2% of the overall budget increase.

Benefits would increase by $ 837,282, which represents 1.43% of the overall budget increase.

An increase of $ 345,135 for special education represents a 9.5% increase and represents 0.59% of the overall budget increase.

The fourth key factor, according to Kobza, is a magnetic school tuition settlement the district has reached with Bridgeport, costing $ 197,000, which is 0.34% of the overall budget increase. .

Budget assumptions

Kobza said his budget proposal is based on several assumptions. Among them is that registration and special education fees will be stable. It also assumes a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs.

“Hopefully that changes. I think we got a bit of relief last year when we budgeted for about the same number and saved about $ 150,000 when it’s a little less, ”he said. “I hope it will start again this year. We’ll see.”

Other budget assumptions include better funding for repair and maintenance accounts, that people will live in a COVID-free world by September, and that there will be no revenue gap.

Budget history

This graph shows budget increases for Monroe public schools over the past decade, as well as student numbers and staffing. Click to enlarge.

The Superintendent showed a slide on the history of the Monroe Public Schools budget with percentages of annual spending increases, enrollments, and staff. The increases were zero in 2011-12 and 2012-13, 1.31% in 2013-14, 1.58 in 2014-15, 1.65 in 2015-16, 1.55 in 2016-17, 1.15 in 2017-18, 1.59 in 2018-19, 1.96 in 2019-20, and 2.19 in 2020-21.

“This is an average budget increase of 1.3% over 10 years,” Kobza said. “This year is an anomaly. There are more here. But even if you average over 11 years, that’s an increase of 1.74. I think it is important.

Then Kobza looked at the inscription. A week ago, enrollment in Monroe public schools was 3,215 with 259.16 teaching positions.

The superintendent said the district has done a great job of reducing the number of staff as student enrollments have steadily declined over the years. However, he said registrations are going up now.

Kobza said 2014-15 and 2015-16 are recent years when student populations were comparable, with 3,298 and 3,179 students, respectively.

“We had 12 more employees in 15-16 and 18 more employees in 14-15, so between 12 and 18 more teachers for about that number of students,” Kobza said, “to say that we are doing more with less, we do much more with less.

Retrieve it

When budget proposals are cut, Kobza noted that there is always a concern that programs and posts never return. He showed the list of all positions lost during the last budget process and a list of programs.

One list included a special education position at Masuk, a global languages ​​position at Masuk, a K-5 math coordinator, a K-5 science coordinator, two interventionist teachers for elementary schools. , a library media specialist at Stepney Elementary School, a sixth-grade teacher, an educational leader for the world language, a guard / security post, a secretary, para-educators, a courier and interns .

The other list included $ 150,000 in maintenance discounts, professional development, elementary summer reading program, Jockey Hollow online math program, increasing the supplement to $ 300, rental of a hockey locker room, high jump mat and toner.

“We are starting to recover some of these things. We don’t think we need part of it, ”Kobza said. “John DeGennaro has done a great job working with the Booster Club. They bought the high jump mat last year. Paul Korse did a great job negotiating a smart lease with Canon, so we’re not worried about replenishing the amount of toner. We learn to live a little differently.

The priority on the rosters are staffing positions, due to the increase in student registrations.

Kobza’s budget proposal would bring the special education post back to Masuk and the world language post, which is a Spanish teaching job split between Masuk and Jockey Hollow Middle School. It would also restore a sixth grade teacher.

In addition to increasing maintenance funding, Kobza’s budget would restore the professional development of staff, including conferences and the renewal of the district’s relationship with Teachers College.

The superintendent also shared some of the things he wants to restore in the future, including a K-5 math coordinator, a K-5 science coordinator, two interventionist teachers for elementary schools. and a library media specialist at Stepney Elementary School.

Schools to be proud of

The Superintendent expressed his pride in the school district, recalling how Monroe had schools of distinction and how Masuk was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School.

In line with the graduate’s vision, the district has identified the knowledge and skills they want their students to possess, including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, empathy, and socio-emotional courage, which prepares students for Monroe graduates in college and career.

Kobza said 90 percent of Monroe’s high school graduates go on to two- or four-year colleges, attend some of the top universities, and become good, productive members of society.

“I am always amazed at the philanthropic efforts of our students,” he said, adding that they perform tens of thousands of hours of community service each year.

Kobza touted the district’s unified sports programs, other after-school programs, and partnerships within the community.

“We have a lot to offer our children and we should be very proud of it,” he said. “We must be very proud of our staff. Our staff did a great job.

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Jeffrey G. Foley

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