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Ledyard -The Board of Education is set to vote on the proposed zero-increase budget for 2013-14 on Wednesday.
Superintendent Mike Graner presented his nearly $29.7 million budget to board members almost two weeks ago, and following a public hearing last week, the board's finance committee voted to send the budget to the full board for a vote.
While the budget initially included a projected $735,175 increase, some built-in cuts and savings - along with some additional shuffling around by Graner - eliminated the increase.
It's a purposeful move, Graner said, as the board looks to propose a major renovation project for Ledyard Middle School, which would be included on the May budget referendum for the town and school budgets. A flat-funded budget may make the construction's price tag, which Graner said he expects to be finalized in the next week or two, easier for taxpayers to swallow at the polls.
"The board and I felt that proposing a significant project like the full renovation of the middle school and an increase in taxes was a bit much," he said. "We thought the best thing to do was to come in at zero."
While the $29,693,964 proposal is more than the current $29,544,964, that is because of a $115,000 state grant for the high school's agri-science program and a $34,000 health insurance savings that, after last week's public hearing, board members decided to put toward computer upgrades.
Graner said all current staff and curricular and extracurricular programs will remain the same.
Contractual obligations for staff were offset by a number of smaller items, including fuel savings, the ending of a one-year contract for temporary staff who helped to transition the middle and high schools' English program to new state Common Core standards, a handful of retiring teachers, and lower-than-anticipated special education, custodian contract and special education costs.
The biggest change in the budget will come from the transition from half-day to all-day kindergarten in the fall - a program the board approved in December. Between federal Title I grant money and the cost savings of eliminating mid-day bus service, the program cost in the end was projected at only $73,990, which was folded into the larger budget.
If approved, the budget will be submitted to Mayor John Rodolico next Monday.