The proposed 2020-21 budget for Lyme-Old Lyme schools calls for an increase of just 0.39 percent, or less than $140,000, the lowest budget increase in the history of the district.
“It’s the lowest budget increase on record,” said Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “We are still discussing and are still making a few revisions, so it might go down even more.”
Compared to neighboring school districts, the modest increase is all the more striking — the draft budget for East Lyme schools includes an increase of 4.26 percent, Old Saybrook of 0.98 percent and Guilford of 2.14 percent.
According to Neviaser, the Lyme-Old Lyme budget benefited significantly from a $660,000 decrease in debt service for 2020-21.
“A large part is due to the reduction in debt service, but also our health insurance and special education spending,” said Neviaser.
For the coming school year, the requested special education budget is $85,264 less than the $1.5 million requested last year. According Melissa Dougherty, the district director of special services, a shift of that magnitude is not usual given that even one student attending a private special education facility or requiring extensive services can greatly impact a budget.
Lyme-Old Lyme also benefited from a net drop of $111,710 in health insurance costs and employee benefits including retirement.
A sixth pre-kindergarten classroom, a rate increase for substitute teachers, and additional vans — all discussed at previous meetings — were also not included in the 2020-21 budget.
“On February 5th the public has the opportunity to ask us questions, but I think people are pretty pleased because we have been able to put all the things in the budget without a big increase,” Neviaser said. “Specifically, the Lyme Consolidated School gym floor along with the tennis courts will be completed this coming school year.”
The gym renovation is expected to cost $435,000 and the tennis courts are estimated to cost $240,000.
A public forum to discuss the budget prior to the board vote will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Center School on Wednesday, February 5.
Note: This story has been updated. The previous version incorrectly stated that special education spending had dropped to $85,264 rather than dropped by that amount.