Trumbull superintendent proposes 5.58 percent BOE budget increase

Trumbull Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel welcomes students for first day of school at Tashua Elementary School in Trumbull, Conn. on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

Trumbull Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel welcomes students for first day of school at Tashua Elementary School in Trumbull, Conn. on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel has proposed a Board of Education operating budget for fiscal year 2024 with a 5.58 percent increase over the current budget.

The proposal, which was published online late last month, is for an operating budget of $122,380,277, a difference of $6,464,719 from the adopted Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Semmel explained some of the reasons for the increase in an executive summary included with the budget proposal.

"Like many private organizations, the Trumbull Public Schools is facing rising salaries, health care costs, utilities, and a host of other  non-discretionary items that add to total expenses," his statement read. "This collective document and associated presentations outline the real needs of the Trumbull Public Schools." 

At a Board of Education meeting in October, Semmel warned the board that the coming budget would represent an increase of at least 4.5 percent over the current one, and that's only if everything remained flat besides insurance costs, transportation costs and salaries. 

The largest proportion of the budget is dedicated to staff salaries at 64.6 percent, staff benefits at 17.5 percent, and purchased services-other at 11.1 percent, which collectively account for 93.2 percent of the entire budget.

Semmel said the district is in the process of trying to "solidify" its transportation costs for the coming year, as its current five-year contract expires on June 30. Six companies attended a pre-bid conference on Dec. 13, and bids are due back on Jan. 18. Semmel said, based on what he's seen in other districts, the contract expense could increase by anywhere from 10 to 20 percent.

As for health benefits, Semmel's executive summary talks about how changing carriers likely helped keep those costs under control. On Aug. 31, the state terminated its relationship with the State Partnership Plan for its health benefits. Semmel said the SPP rate increase estimated for 2023-2024 is between 9 and 12 percent.

However, the district's new carriers — United Healthcare for medical and Cigna for dental — have a rate increase cap of 8 percent for 2023-2024.

Semmel is scheduled to discuss the budget with the school board on Jan. 10 and 12. There will be a third budget workshop on Jan. 17 if needed.