During Monday's budget workshop, the Board of Education discussed a preliminary 4 percent increase in its total operating budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

The $73.8 million request is a $2.8 million increase over this year's $71 million budget.

"I would like to reiterate that this is the first rough cut," Superintendent Dr. David Abbey said. "Sort of like sculpting, you start with a lump of clay and then take off."

While the majority of the increase is a result of more staffing proposals, Abbey and the board stressed that various other challenges weigh into the increase as well.

One of the challenges the board faces is maintaining the quality of education provided to students while enrollment is at its highest in more than 30 years.

"We need to sustain our momentum," Abbey said. "Students today have to compete globally in a way that we did not have to growing up."

According to Board Chairman Nick Williams, in 2007, the New England School Development Council projected New Canaan's enrollment to be 3,198 students in 2010. This year's actual enrollment is 4,096 students.

"We are 178 over that projection," Williams said. The Board wanted to stress that despite higher enrollment, quality has not decreased.

In terms of staff, the Board discussed adding elementary and math teachers and special education teachers, among others.

On upside to the discussion included the Board's estimated savings of $270,000 in utilities by implementing different energy saving techniques.

The first formal budget presentation is Jan. 10.