LISBON — The School Department submitted its preliminary budget to the Town Council on Tuesday night, requesting a significant increase to better serve special needs students.

The budget for 2020-21 is $18.1 million, around $9 million of which will come from the state.

The amount to come from taxpayers would increase an estimated $666,239 over 2019-20, or just over 9%, according to discussions at the meeting.

“Probably the most prominent one in any school budget are special education costs, and that’s really one big piece that’s driving our budget this year, is the number we have in place for out of district students,” Superintendent Richard Green told the council.

Many Lisbon students cannot receive the education they need in local schools due to their special needs, and sending the students outside of the district can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per student, according to Green. Despite recent expansions in the special needs services the department provides, some students still need services beyond the scope of what the town offers.

“We still have students either from this town or moved into the area that require services that even that program can’t provide,” citing the town’s alternative schools programming.

At the same time, the School Department is trying to increase the student support services it provides, while educating teachers about how to help students dealing with trauma.

“We’re really faced with a lot of challenges with students,” Green said, adding that staff are requesting special training on how to handle students who have difficult behaviors due to the trauma they have suffered.

A positive trend in the school system Green pointed to is the department’s ability to attract staff with experience because of more attractive benefits and pay offered this year. An increase in the 2019-20 budget allow for better salaries and benefits, he said.

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