Budget times apparently can make the proverbial strange bedfellows.

Previous budget years have found the New Milford Town Council and Board of Education at odds regarding proposed schools spending.

This year, however, all was rosy March 5 as the Board of Education met with the council and the Board of Finance to talk money.

"This has been a difficult year and you have all stepped up to the plate," councilman Joe Failla told the Board of Education. "Bringing in a 1 percent increase in a budget with the closing of a school (John Pettibone) and transitions to other buildings is not easy."

The Board of Education's proposed budget is $61.5 million, which would represent a $617,000 increase over the current fiscal year.

Mayor Pat Murphy proposed slicing $400,000 from the bottom line and replacing that amount with money from the town's internal service fund toward medical expense.

The school district's business manager, Jay Hubelbank, noted since the economic downturn of 2008, education budgets in New Milford have averaged a 2 percent increase, including a bump of less than 1 percent in the 2013-14 budget.

Savings associated with closing Pettibone School in July are calculated at $803,640, Hubelbank said.

"We've taken the money saved by closing Pettibone School and reinvested it in our students," said Angie Chastain, the board's chairwoman. "We're providing a pathway to success for our students."

With the budget proposal for 2015-16, there would be an increase of one social worker, a business education instructor and technical instructor for the seventh and eighth grades.

A sixth-grade after-school exploratory language program would also be added, as would an expansion of Project Lead the Way at Schaghticoke Middle School and New Milford High School.

Town Council members lauded the Board of Education for eliminating pay-to-play sports.

"The proposed budget maintains the board's commitment to provide quality education ... while presenting the town with a fiscally responsible budget," Chastain said. "The closing of Pettibone School gives us the opportunity to improve services to students while simultaneously addressing the economic realities of New Milford."

Budget deliberation dates for the Town Council are being scheduled. The council's budget proposal is expected to be sent to the Board of Finance by Wednesday, March 18.

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352