Stratford will pay more than $158,000 next year to bus 92 students to two Bridgeport magnet schools.
The town has to shoulder the unexpected increase to its school budget because of a drop in state transportation funding for Bridgeport, according to Michael Feeney, the chief operating officer for Stratford schools.
"This year they found transportation is more than what [a state] grant is providing," Feeney said after a budget committee meeting Tuesday night.
As a result, Stratford will have to pay $69,000 to transport 40 students to Discovery Magnet School, and $89,700 to bus 52 students to the Fairchild Wheeler Magnet Campus, a multi-magnet high school set to open in the fall.
The combined cost makes up most of a $209,000 proposed increase to the school board's 2013-14 funding allocation for magnet school transportation, which has a total budget of just over $1 million.
Stratford pays for the cost associated with sending a total of 252 students to seven magnet schools in the area.
Feeney said school officials received a letter from Bridgeport saying the per capita transportation cost for a magnet school student next fall will be $3,000, $1,300 of which will be reimbursed via a state grant. That leaves Stratford responsible for a per-student charge of $1,700.
If Stratford decided to use its own buses to transport magnet students, the cost to ship students just to Discovery would total $100,000, about $10,000 more than what the town is planning on paying Bridgeport, Feeney said.
After revisions over the past month, the proposed school budget for fiscal year 2013-14 comes in at $96,804,974, a 2.99 percent increase over the current fiscal year's budget, which was passed last year with a 0.67 percent increase.
A final budget is expected to be sent to Mayor John A. Harkins for approval by mid-February.
Stratford Patch will continue to provide updates on budget deliberations in the coming days.