The school district Monday night unveiled the first draft of next year's budget, announcing a total increase of less than $2 million .

Superintendent of Schools David Abbey presented the budget to the Board of Education at its regular meeting, where they discussed a proposed $960,000 increase to the operating budget and a $904,500 increase to the capital projects budget.

"We feel that this is a budget that accomplishes two things: it is resource-effective [and] it's fiscally responsible on the one hand, and it also, on the other hand, allows us to move the district forward and allows us to continue to approve," Abbey said during his presentation.

The draft operating budget of $71 million provides a 1.39 percent increase from the 2009-2010 approved budget. The hike falls just short of $1 million for the first time in many years, representing an effort to spend smartly without thwarting the district goal to achieve excellence, Abbey said.

The proposed operating budget eliminates 3.2 teacher positions and 6.8 aide positions, saving $317,500 in staffing costs.

"This is the second year in a row that, although our enrollment is flat, we've reduced faculty and staff," Abbey said.

Additions in the proposed budget include one guidance counselor position, a technology aide and the implementation of the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program in grades three and four.

The projected operating budget includes $437,840 in information communication and technology (ICT) requests, which, in the past, were included in the capital projects budget. These repositioned requests fall into the categories of infrastructure, professional development, software, ICT accessories and technical support, while hardware purchases and leases, totaling $484,521, will remain in the ICT budget.

"The total amount of money that we are asking for from the town has not changed; it's where it's positioned," Abbey explained.

The proposed capital budget shows a striking increase from last year's $140,000 request, but it falls in line with requests approved for the 2008-2009 school year ($811,000) and the 2007-2008 school year ($1,233,000). According to Abbey, that's because the board put many of its capital project proposals on hold last year when it was creating the 2009-10 budget. Outside of the capital project budget requests, Abbey said, the district received a tremendous amount of funding.

"Between last year and this year, we received in the neighborhood of $1,940,000 from the town to fund some of our projects," he explained. He added, "Because bond rates were so low, it was a good time for the town to borrow."

Among the capital projects funded by the town with the bonded money are lighting and boiler room upgrades.

Line-item requests in the 2010-2011 proposed capital budget include funding to repair a Saxe Middle School hallway that currently prevents fire doors from closing, a capital painting project in the elementary schools and the renovation of middle school rest rooms dating to the 1950s.

A second reading of the budget is scheduled for the next BOE meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19. One change currently under consideration includes the addition of a grade-five phase-in of FLES. The phase-in, currently scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year, would hike up the operating budget by about $92,000.

Another change under consideration is the repositioning of money for data warehouse software currently set aside in the operating budget that numerous BOE members said they would instead like to see included in the capital projects budget.

"The budget committee whole-heartedly agrees with this budget," BOE member Kathy Smith said, adding, "We feel the administration has heard what the board's direction was, which is to continue to move this district forward and at the same time to look under every rock to try to find the inefficiencies ... . In the time of a tough economy we feel the administration has responded in terms of continuing to move forward and at the same time bringing in very reasonable numbers."