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Norwich — The Board of Education reluctantly agreed Tuesday night to use state Alliance District grant money to expand full-day kindergarten rather than using the funds to decrease class sizes in upper grades and to restore world languages and instrumental music in the coming school year.
The board adopted a final school budget with the bottom line of $71.6 million that was approved last week by the City Council — $812,079 less than the $72.4 million the board had requested.
Superintendent Abby Dolliver and school Business Administrator Athena Nagel presented a list of cuts needed to reach the $71.6 million bottom line, and the board adopted the changes 8-1.
Following a lengthy executive session to discuss nonunion salaries and Dolliver’s evaluation and contract extension, the board voted unanimously to approve 3 percent raises for all nonunion personnel, including Dolliver. She will earn $164,800. Nagel will earn $118,752 and Curriculum Director Joseph Stefon will earn $143,502 next fiscal year.
Only one of the board’s goals, the expansion of full-day kindergarten, survived the budget process: $120,000 for middle school world languages, $60,000 for an instrumental music teacher and $120,000 for library media specialists to expand library hours all were removed from the budget.
The board also cut $200,000 from the capital budget and will roll over $72,079 from this year’s insurance budget to next year. The board is self-insured.
“I don’t think we have a choice right now. The goal is to do the best for the students. The council voted,” board member Cora Lee Boulware said.
“I’m just tired of voting every year on a budget that does our children no good,” board member Jesshua Ballaro said. She cast the lone vote against the budget and suggested taking $60,000 out of the already underfunded $300,000 capital improvements budget to restore instrumental music in the middle schools — a plea made annually by parents.
Nagel opposed that suggestion, saying the capital improvements budget already had been reduced and part of the remaining $300,000 would be needed to equip four new full-day kindergarten classes.
“We could easily go through $500,000,” Nagel said of future capital expenditures.
Dolliver said she is trying to bring at least some “spotty exposure” to world languages and instrumental music, which were cut several years ago. She is exploring whether an intern music teacher could introduce students to instrumental music, and whether online world language programs could be offered. But that would require use of library computers, and funding for longer library hours was eliminated.