According to the proposal submitted by Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio and officially adopted by the Board of Education on Jan. 22, Old Saybrook’s proposed education budget for the 2019–’20 academic year puts forward an increase of 2.75 percent over the current year’s budget. The total requested budget of $26,520,747 represents an increase of $710,925 over the current year’s total budget of $25,809,822. As with districts across Connecticut, salaries and benefits are the main drivers of the budget each year. This will be the third year of a teachers’ collective bargaining agreement that sought to address salary disparities with other school districts that resulted in “well trained mid-career staff…leaving for other districts,” Perruccio wrote. The agreement’s incremental raises in teachers’ salary steps bring Old Saybrook more on par with comparable districts, according to Perrucio. “The proposed increase for certified and non-certified staff wages and benefits represents a 4.87 percent increase and equates to 79 percent of the overall budget,” Perruccio wrote. For the 2018–’19 school year, the total budget for staff wages and benefits was $20,077,113. In this proposed budget for 2019–’20, it is $21,055,301. Staffing decisions are guided by enrollment and program requirements, but an added driver in Old Saybrook is “preservation as identified by the [district’s] strategic plan and individual student needs,” Perruccio wrote. The number of “high-need students,” who require special education, English-language learning, and/or fall below the poverty level, is increasing, and these needs are reflected in the suggested budget. As a result, requested total costs for English Language Learners shows an increase of 84.36 percent, adding $56,901 to the previous year’s expense of $67,449 to arrive at a request of $124,350. The increased need for social worker services is reflected in the requested increase of 183.21 percent, from a budget of $31,591 for this academic year to $89,470 for the next. Perruccio noted that “non-personnel related line items” decreased from $5,732,709 to $5,465,446 in the current budget, thanks to efforts to reduce supplies where necessary and appropriate as well as consortium agreements for utility rates. For the second year in a row, the capital maintenance plan shows a decrease, with this year’s budget request at $268,500, less $74,500 from last year’s budget. Politics also played its role, as the state budget deficit, along with the election of a new governor as well as a significant number of new legislators, creates some added uncertainty about the level of state funding. Perruccio pointed out that while the new gubernatorial administration has expressed a commitment to education, bringing those aims to fruition will require “revenue streams” as well as some political negotiations. The proposed education budget was presented to the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Board of Finance (BOF) at an informational budget review meeting on Jan. 29. On March 1, the BOF will consider and vote on the proposed education and BOS budgets. This will be followed by a public meeting, at which both budgets will be presented to residents. The BOF will then have the option to modify either or both budgets, which will be voted upon in a town referendum in May.