If approved, the district would spend 4.9 percent more on education in the fiscal year starting July 1 than it plans to spend this year. Among other things, the plan would trim the high school art program and bolster reading instruction. "This is a conservative budget that recognizes the taxpayers' economic concerns while still trying to provide quality educational programs at all levels of our school system,'' Matusiak wrote in a foreword to members of the Board of Education. Matusiak is scheduled to present her recommendations at a public board meeting today at 7 p.m. in the high school library. She said Monday she had worked to keep the budget tight because the district will soon need to make improvements at the high school. The school must undergo re-accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2008, and Matusiak said it is "critically important'' the building has adequate space and a suitable learning environment. "We're running out of space and some science labs are outdated,'' Matusiak said. She hopes school officials can get voters to approve a high school renovation plan this spring. If that happens, the town can apply to the state Department of Education and receive money next fiscal year to help cover costs of the project. On Monday, board chairman Paul Bruno described the proposed budget as "pretty lean.'' He also said it might be a tough year to push forward the school renovation project. "If we can move forward this year we will but at the moment the timing is a little tight,'' Bruno said. "If we can provide a budget to the town that shows some fiscal responsibility, it will help us later in presenting the project. We have about two years to prepare the high school.'' The projected budget includes some spending cuts and other additions. Matusiak is recommending personnel cuts in kindergarten, where enrollment has dropped, and in the high school art department. The budget would add a part-time teaching position and a teacher's aide in the middle school's special education program. It also calls for hiring a full-time reading specialist to be shared between the middle school and the high school. "In light of (federal) 'No Child Left Behind' mandates, as well as the new graduation requirements and the district's goal which focuses on reading across the disciplines, this is a more critical need than ever before,'' Matusiak wrote to the board. Overall, about 80 percent of the proposed operating budget would go to cover employee salaries and benefits. The budget projects a 12 percent increase in the costs of health and other insurance. Contact Brian Saxton at bsaxton@newstimes.com or at (203) 731-3332.