Funds allocated for full-day kindergarten in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — Full-day kindergarten is coming to Cheshire.

The Town Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to reallocate $255,000 from the Board of Education’s capital budget to its full-day kindergarten budget. The money is left over from school construction projects that have already been completed.

Republican councilors Rob Oris, Sylvia Nichols and Chairman Timothy P. Slocum joined Democrats Peter Talbot, Patti-Flynn Harris and Liz Linehan to back the resolution. Republican Vice Chairman David Schrumm and Councilors James M. Sima and Thomas Ruocco opposed the measure.

In April, Slocum joined with the dissenters in supporting a budget that proponents of full-day kindergarten said would have made implementation of the program impossible.

“I’m not a fan of these transfers” between already appropriated budgets, said Ruocco, explaining his opposition to the measure. “Now we’re transferring money from what appears to be a defunct capital budget account.”

“I’m not a fan of FDK,” Schrumm acknowledged, before stating that supporters should have included the $255,000 in the board’s operating budget and proposed an increase in property taxes to make up the difference.

Sima said councilors were unaware of the extra money in the board’s capital account when they approved the town’s capital budget in August. He said that it could have been used for a district flooring project.

Oris dismissed the objections. “The facts are that the budget got approved,” he said. “This is just another referendum on full-day kindergarten.”

“This is just much ado about nothing,” added Talbot. He said councilors were aware of the proposed transfer during the budget approval process.

The funding shift was necessary to cover part of the shortfall after the council reduced the board’s budget to $66 million from the $67 million it requested. The board found additional savings of $300,000 through a retirement incentive offered to district teachers, $125,000 from the elimination of mid-day bus routes necessary for half-day kindergarten, and $105,000 by reducing budgets for maintenance and textbooks.

Only one of the reductions was directly connected to full-day kindergarten. The program originally called for hiring eight new teachers and eight teacher’s assistants, but the staff additions were cut back to six for each position, producing savings of $150,000. (203) 317-2242 Twitter: @JeffGebeauRJ

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