Date set for public hearing on Shelton’s new budget; Funding full-day K is a focus

The Shelton Board of Aldermen’s public hearing on the proposed 2014-15 budget will take place Wednesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium.

The hearing is a chance for members of the public to speak about the proposal, which will be voted on by aldermen later in May and take effect when the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Mayor Mark Lauretti has proposed a $117.9 million budget, which would involve a spending increase of $2.12 million (or 1.8%) from the current fiscal year — with $2 million of that total going to the Board of Education.

There would be no tax increase under Lauretti’s budget.

Board of A&T makes some changes

The Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T) tweaked Lauretti’s proposal a bit, adding about $620,000 to the BOE amount in the hopes of funding full-day kindergarten and eliminating the pay-to-play system for students to participate in sports and certain other extracurricular activities.

A&T also shifted some education-related costs to the city side of the budget, both for operating expenses (propane for school buses) and capital expenses (furniture and equipment for full-day kindergarten).

The A&T-approved budget would tap into past budget surplus money to pay for most of the increased spending. The A&T budget also would involve no tax hike.

Full-day K is a focus

The budget issue drawing the most attention this year has been the BOE’s plans to start full-day kindergarten this fall, which school officials have said will cost $986,000 in the first year but only require $406,000 in new education operating funds.

The difference would be made up by moving teachers from other elementary grades to full-day K, and having the city — and not the school system — pay for new furniture and equipment needed for full-day K.

Many school parents have spoken out in favor of starting full-day kindergarten.

Most districts now offer full-day K

Currently, 110 of the 169 school districts in Connecticut offer full-day K, including all districts in Fairfield County except Shelton, according to Shelton education officials.

BOE members and officials also have said full-day K would lower future remedial costs by better preparing students for the first grade and subsequent grades.

Some opponents have questioned whether students that young really are ready to decipher so much academic information.