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Montville - The Board of Education last week approved a flat-funded, $36.6 million budget for 2013-14.
Even without requesting more funds than in the current year's spending plan, the board has budgeted for some new programs, such as full-day kindergarten, which will start during the upcoming school year.
Superintendent Pamela Aubin said that the Board of Finance asked her to reduce the budget from its original 1.26 percent increase. The school board was able to accomplish the decrease without layoffs and would continue to fund the transition to full-day kindergarten by reducing the summer curriculum, eliminating a proposed oceanography project and other measures. Aubin said she felt confident that this budget would be approved by the Town Council in June.
Keeping full-day kindergarten in the budget was a priority, said Aubin, because research findings have shown a variety of benefits to extending the kindergarten school day, including balancing direct instruction with creative play and cooperative learning, improving students' ability to work independently, narrowing achievement gaps and reducing the number of children referred to special education.
The extra time would give the children more time to play and explore. As it is, Aubin said, they barely have time for regular recess.
It also would make the public schools more competitive with magnet schools and charter programs that offer full-day kindergarten, Aubin said. Other benefits to the program are financial: it would allow the district to save money on transportation costs by eliminating mid-day buses and reducing the cost of special education programs.
The budget also includes funding to make the campus safety officer position permanent. That job currently is filled by retired state trooper Michael Collins.
Funding for other safety measures, including additional cameras for Montville High School and a key-swipe system on school entrances, has been requested under the town's capital plan.
Aubin said that even though the retirement of a few teachers contributed to the cost savings, class sizes will remain small. Kindergarten and first- and second-grade classes will have around 16 or 17 students, and third- through fifth-grade classes will have up to 22 students.
"We feel fortunate that we can accomplish this on a zero percent increase budget," said Aubin.
The Board of Education will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. April 23 in the Montville High School auditorium to discuss the budget. At 6 p.m. May 22, the Town Council will hold a special budget meeting in the Montville High School auditorium.