Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said she knows her request for an approximately 5-percent increase in the school budget is sure to draw criticism for being too high, but she felt compelled to make the request.
"It's my job to decide what the district needs," she said in an interview after she unveiled her budget request at the Tuesday. "I'm being truthful in saying this is what we need."
The Board of Education meeting was packed with about 50 or so people in attendance, including many members of the Legislative Council and Board of Finance who also have to deliberate and vote on the budget request before sending it to the voters to decide.
While Robinson's proposed increase was large, at least one official in attendance said he would take a wait-and-see approach.
"It'll be interesting to see what their reaction will be," finance board member Harry Waterbury said of education board members who have first crack at the request before moving the proposal to the finance board in a couple of weeks.
Robinson's request for a $72 million budget, including funds to create a full-day kindergarten program, was not modeled after a same-services proposal, she said.
"We're re-building," Robinson said, adding she believes the district has been through a belt-tightening period, and now needs to do more to have a better chance at meeting different and in some cases, more rigorous standards being put in place.
For instance, the state is looking to implement so-called "common core standards" by 2015, and as a result the district needs to prepare for that by investing more resources into curriculum writing, Robinson said. Test scores at the high school level also has not risen to a satisfactory level, and graduation requirements may increase in future years, which was part of the reason Robinson said she would like to add more teachers at that school.
At the same time, Robinson said she has had to rein in some of her ambitions, proposing district-level health and music positions be eliminated to help pay for two other district specialists, one in math and science and the other in literacy and language.
However, elminating that music position also will leave Reed Intermediate School one less staff member and a possible hole in its schedule that Robinson readily admits she must look into further.
(Read more about the proposal at )
Education board chairman Debbie Leidlein said Tuesday was the first time she saw what was being proposed, and at first blush, some of the initiatives appear worth pursuing, she said. Her plan is to look through all of the initiatives in-depth as well as investigate other areas where reductions can be made in light of declining enrollment before issuing any decisions.
"I wouldn't expect to decrease our services," she said. "We'll have to look at the initiatives and make decisions."
The education board is expected to hold a workshop Thursday to review in detail the budget of individual schools and plant operations and Tuesday to review departmental budgets, such as for special education, curriculum, technology. A public hearing then will be held Jan. 26 with the final education board vote scheduled for Jan. 31.
Leidlein said she encouraged the public to come and voice their opinions on the budget request.
"We need to hear the public's input," she said.