Published February 11. 2014 6:00PM Updated February 11. 2014 11:54PM
Norwich — The Board of Education budget committee Tuesday reviewed a preliminary 2014-15 school budget that would total $73.8 million, a $3.3 million increase over this year’s budget just to keep current programs, but board members told administrators to try again to restore long-desired programs that would add another $540,000 to the budget.
The late additions — to add four full-day kindergarten teachers, two world language teachers, two library media specialists, and one instrumental music teacher — would bring the preliminary budget total to $74.4 million, a $3.86 million increase.
The budget expenditure committee will meet again Feb. 25 to discuss updated budget figures. The full board will vote on its final proposed budget at the March 11 meeting.
Reached after the budget committee meeting, Mayor Deberey Hinchey said she had no comment on the preliminary school budget numbers.
Superintendent Abby Dolliver and school Business Administrator Athena Nagel presented the committee with the preliminary “must have” budget to keep current programs and staffing. That budget contained a $1 million increase in combined certified staff and support salaries and an $819,000 increase in transportation costs.
While Norwich Free Academy tuition will increase by 2 percent next school year, the overall tuition bill Norwich would pay is expected to decline by $207,924 because of declining regular and special education enrollment. However, those savings would be mostly consumed with an expected increase of $153,395 in Norwich special education support staff provided to Norwich NFA students.
During discussion, budget committee members said they wanted to try again to restore programs either lost through budget cuts over the years or never implemented for lack of funding. The board tried to add the same programs last year but was thwarted when the City Council approved only a $150,000, or 0.21 percent, budget increase.
School board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso said most of the small towns surrounding Norwich that also send students to NFA already have full-day kindergarten and teach foreign languages as early as kindergarten. Jacaruso said if Norwich wants to attract more middle-income families to the city, the school system needs to have these programs.
“This is what the city really must provide our kids,” Jacaruso said.
Board member Jesshua Ballaro said if the board has to pare down the requests, she would place universal full-day kindergarten as the top priority.
The Board of Education last summer insisted in final budget adjustments that the administration expand full-day kindergarten to all schools. The seven city elementary schools still have a mixture of full-day and half-day programs, with some full-day slots assigned by lottery. Currently, 103 students are enrolled in half-day classes.