THE WESTON BUDGET ADOPTION PROCESS FY '13-'14 WILL TAKE PLACE UNDER NEW
MANDATING A REFERENDUM
PROCESS UNDER NEW CHARTER;
WHAT IMPLICATIONS THERE MAY BE FOR WESTON
THE BACKGROUND: Car
tax changes coming? Other
District budgets; Governor's
forms post-Sandy Hook gunviolence super
committee or "taskforces" plus CCM
News reports around CT cities and towns. The
old issue of long range projections... and re-purposing buildings -
example, New Hampshire.
IS THERE TO
BE A NEW CHARTER RE-REVISION COMMISSION? SELECTMEN WILL
FORM A NEW COMMITTEE IN 2 WEEKS FOR VOTE IN NOVEMBER 2013.
FIFTEEN DOLLARS PER VOTE (total
budget for the Referendum divided by number who voted)
Since there couldn't be any further cuts
to school budget, only the true believers in democracy showed up, some
sprinting from the parking lot smartly to the polls to vote!!!
Budget passes in a "slam dunk" @
10-1 ratio "yes" to "no."
Only 289 voted in Referendum: 80 voted after ATBM, 22 did
and 187 came to the WMS Gym. FILL IN
THE BALLOT: Town 256-33, School 251-38, Capital 262-27
POLICE COMMISSION "CITIZEN OFTHE
YEAR" FOR 2013 IS WOODY BLISS
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR WOODY BLISS
DOES DOUBLE DUTY - ALSO MODERATING ATBM:
TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE RINGER...RULES AGAINST FRAUDULENT VOTING...THE
FULL SCENE AT THE STAGE - WHAT'S MISSING? ANY VOTING.
THOSE ON STAGE WHO ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED IN ANSWERING QUESTIONS
ON THE BUDGET ITSELF BELOW...
RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX THERE WAS
A QUESTION ON PROCEDURE UNDER NEW CHARTER:
DEFINITION, SCHEDULING OF NEW QUORUM CALL - PTO, PRESSES FOR THE ADVICE
BY THE ABSENT TOWN ATTORNEY OF ONE ONLY...
A QUORUM (136) REACHED AFTER THE
THE DISCORD OVER HOW A QUORUM WAS DETERMINED MADE
EVERYONE A BIT WARY...THIS ATBM WAS BEING HELD IN UNCHARTED (AS OPPOSED TO
"UNCHARTERED") TERRITORY AND THE WORST FEARS OF SOME AND PREDICTIONS BY
OTHERS CAME TRUE RE: MANIPULATION OF THE QUORUM FOR VOTING AT
ATBM. IF THE PANEL OF MODERATORS CANNOT COME UP WITH THEIR OWN
PROCEDURE FOR NEXT YEAR, MAYBE THE CHARTER REVISION COMMMISSION
MECHANISM SHOULD BE INVOKED FOR A QUICK REVISION SUCH AS THE ONE FROM 2003?
MEANWHILE THERE WERE ACTUAL
NUMBER ONE WENT TO THE TOWN BUDGET FROM A REALLY SHARP
READER OF THE BUDGET DOCUMENT - WHERE WERE SOME OF THE CAPITAL EXPENSES
LISTED? NO ANSWER FORTHCOMING UNTIL LATER, WHEN DIRECTOR OF
FINANCE ADMITTED THE PARTICULAR ITEM WAS NOT LISTED AS A CAPITAL
EXPENSE WITH OTHERS, BUT APPEARED IN ANOTHER PLACE IN THE
DOCUMENT. NUMEROUS TYPOS WERE ALSO NOTED DURING THE MEETING.
AND THEN THERE WAS THE QUESTION ABOUT MORE DOOR, WINDOWS ETC. FOR THE
HAD NOT WE VOTED
ON THIS ALREADY? YES, OF COURSE WE HAD - AT LEAST TWICE
BEFORE! FIRST, IN THE ORIGINAL REFERENDUM, THE MONEY NOW BEING
USED FOR WINDOWS AND DOORS WAS PART OF FIRST REDO OF THE REFERENDUM OF
2001 WHEN WE
WERE TALKING A PERFORMANCE SPACE ADDED TO THE MIDDLE SCHOOL;
THEN AFTER WE FOUND THERE WASN'T ENOUGH MONEY IN THE REFERENDUM BUDGET
TO PAY FOR THE NEW STRUCTURE, IT WAS REDISTRIBUTED TO WORTHY PROJECTS
SUCH AS...UPGRADING THE EXISTING SCHOOLS INCLUDING DOORS AND WINDOWS AT
BOTH THE MIDDLE SCHOOL AND THE HIGH SCHOOL. THE COST HAS RISEN
BECAUSE OF AIR QUALITY ISSUES SO WE ARE VOTING ADDITIONAL FUNDS IN 2013.
ATBM ENDED ABRUPTLY HOWEVER, WITH A CALL TO ADJOURN TO THE REFERENUM
REFERENDUM VOTING BEGINS POST ATBM...
IN THE LIBRARY ACROSS THE ENTRY IN THE HIGH SCHOOL FROM
CONTINUE THURSDAY MAY 2ND AT WMS GYM FROM 12 NOON TO 8PM.
ABSENTEE VOTING AT TOWN HALLBEGINNING APRIL 25, FROM 9AM to 4:30PM
DURING WORKING HOURS - WE THINK UNTIL NOON, BUT CHECK WITH TOWN HALL ON
THIS! WILL ALL THREE ITEMS PASS?
BOARD OF FINANCE
"DELIBERATION" APRIL 4, 2013, AT 8PM IN TOWN HALL
COMMISSION ROOM CUTS SCHOOL BUDGET BELOW LAST YEAR'S LEVEL, 5-2
A long and philosophical discussion...
Which leads to a cut of $190,000 in a
budget of requested $45 million - however, this actually is lower than
Education establishment and PTO takes it
in with a resigned look. Perhaps because the Board of Finance was
so respectfull of their budget making skills, perhaps because they and
the Board of Education know how much is going to have to be spent on
further "hardening" of the school campus post Sandy Hook. And
curiously, the Police Commission was no where to be seen - Sgt. Ferullo
had been asked, I assume by the Board of Finance, to calculate the
difference in the budget for 1 or 2 new officers - and the marginal
savings were not there for the second.
BOARD OF FINANCE PUBLIC HEARING, 4-3-13
BOARD OF FINANCE PUBLIC HEARING
APRIL 3, 2013, FOR ALL WESTONITES
Board of Finance on stage, listens to speakers after hearing from First
Selectman and Vice-Chair. of the Board of Education
WMS cafeteria filled up more (this at @ 8pm) - missing "a" on sign
noted afterward by Board of Finance, who were staring at it all
Other than Police Commissioners (not shown), who asked for the Board of
Finance to restore their budget to where it was before the First
Selectman made the first cuts, all school budget supporters spoke
up for "resource officer" and an extra policemen.
We did a head count of 100 plus late in
the meeting (photo above right taken prior to 8pm) - standees later,
but not because there weren't seats.
Enormous turnout in terms of % of those who spoke -
most did who
favored the budget. Others who may not have did not speak,
perhaps because there will be a Referendum
year. Discussion of mill rate/reassessment did not happen,
(altho' I did ask a member of the Board of Fiknance after about this)
some serious questions about how long we can keep up the cost
cutting...we note that there was a distinct coordination between
pro-education budget folks and the Police Commission re: support
for SRO ("school resource officer") plus extra policeman - Police
Commission directly requested the Board of Finance to reinstate the
numbers from the Commission's original budget request to the First
Selectman, back at the beginning of the budget process. In
addition, Police Commissioners of both Parties support this request.
Tonight the Board of Selectmen meets at 7pm for regular business (but
30 minutes earlier than usual) and the not-on-town-tv Board of Finance
"deliberations" begin at 8pm in Town Hall Commission Room, according to
the Town website this morning.
Since there will be a Referendum this year as part of the new Charter,
please be advised that you can vote in several different ways:
First, after ATBM on April 24, go to the high school library and check
in and then fill out a ballot; or, beginning Thursday, April 25,
voters can get absentee ballots in Town Hall during business
hours; on May 2nd, from 12 noon to 8pm, you may vote that
Thursday at WMS Gym. When the polls close at 8pm, all votes will
TUESDAY AT THE
SECOND NIGHT OF BOARD OF FINANCE REVIEW:
ON TOWN TV WE HEARD AND SAW BOARD OF
FINANCE PRESS THE ISSUE OF NEEDING A WRITTEN PLAN ON SECURITY AND HOW
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE TOWN (POLICE) ARE TO MOVE AHEAD, POST
NEWTOWN. AND THERE WAS DISCUSSION OF ACTING SOON ON RELEASE
OF NORTH HOUSE TO THE TOWN...GOOD JOB, FINANCEMEN (AND WOMAN).
Board of Finance review of Selectmen's
budget FY13-14 on Monday, March 11, 2013. To be followed Tuesday
by the Board of Education.
Safest place to be in Weston
as the Police Department request for 3 new officiers was entertained
with "a community of interest" in the audience. We know this,
because when the police item was completed, everyone left!
for next year's mill rate increase broached...
First Selectman discusses
process and then highlights the "goals" of the budget, supported by
were the usual concerns with the Volunteer Fire Department budget - but
it was made clear that the Town of Weston does not support all of the
Fire Dept. budget...
Below, left, Fire Department
officials explain the relationship between their budget and the
Town...to a member of the Board of Finance who questioned them.
then the first shoe dropped regarding the budget effect of Sandy Hook...
Study of staffing at a higher
base number of patrol officers re: overtime, the favorite issue for
Boards of Finance thru the years. To be continued with the Board
of Education Tuesday night (which "About Town" will watch on Town TV).
Board members wary...with reval expected to drop values by perhaps
20%...but after this November's coming local election!
How do the Westonites of
2013 respond to a Paul Revere-like alarm - "the British are
coming" - in advance of technical reval, and yet have the taxpayers
believe you? And not think you are being more like a fairy tale Henny-Penny
instead? Which is the question brought up by Chairman of the
Board of Education at "Speak Up 2013" February 23rd...
we hesitate to quote him, but what we heard at one point was a remark
that he couldn't have imagined not having aleady hit the end of the
line when it came to increasing the education budget - yet somehow,
through excellent budget controls, this was avoided so far...
what would a finance discussion be without figuring out that we could
save money on the back of Weston Library?
Supporting the Police Commission
request for more officers, after an expert spoke about how fortunate we
are to have a school complex such as we do (all buildings on "The Mile
of Safety") a citizen arose, who does not have children in Weston
Public Schools, who supported the Police Department staff
expansion. She was advised after reading her statement, by the
Finance Board Chairman, to come to their Public Hearing April 3,
2013 at 8pm in WMS and repeat her statement.
Previously in the Budget Process...
FIRST SELECTMAN'S BECOMES BOARD
OF SELECTMEN'S BUDGET...
We watched on Vimeo Thursday,
Feb. 27, 2013, almost immediately (Town got it up lickity-split) after
the Board of Selectmen met - a regular meeting including action items
appointing the Moderator for ATBM, accepting gift for vests for Police
safety, and a few other matters. PLUS the Selectmen OK'd the
First Selectman's Budget and the recommended $100,000 cut to Education
Budget - only recommended.
Budget Process reviews kicked off last night with the First Selectman
presenting to the Board of Selectman her recommendations for the Town
and Capital Budgets. We watched from home on Town TV!
All that we
missed was the opportunity to take pictures of the Selectmen making the
Fire Department scramble to explain their budget and missing detail as
well as the Police Commission Chair. and Vice-Chair. plus the Chief
fight the fight for more police presence in the "Mile of Safety" area
(the school campus). It wasn't pretty to see - "Speak Up"
on the subject of school safety were invoked. At Speak Up, the
Selectman was careful to say SPECIFICALLY that the Selectmen had not
been involved in this matter. And then noted that there would be
non-public meeting of the three Boards today, we think. We ask
again, is this legal?
I watched for a couple of hours, and sparks
flew, as noted above, over the Fire Department and also over the Police
Department request for 2 officiers one pre Dec. 14, and another for
"Mile of Safety" specialty. And then there is the S.R.O. (school
resource officer - NOT "Single Room Occupancy") matter.
I picked up in passing the there is going to be
another one of those multi-board, executive session-type meetings
tomorrow (?) on school safety.
With Power Point and accompanying remarks,
First Selectman Weinstein began the evening, and then they went
department by department:
- CONCERNS: The First Selectman was
concerned more about next year's budget, which would reflect the reval
(and the already weak growth in Grand List will probably take a hit
further because of the car tax issue). Pointed out as well was
the projected $9.6 million surplus made it 14.7%. (Someone said
something about we had to have that much excess because we're #1 in
debt to budget ration...and then [drum roll] she and Tom said
cheerfully - "Oh no, Westport is #1, we're #2 NOW").
- My favorite thing about the First Selectman's
budget is the $$ for a Tree Warden (part time - shared with
Westport)!!! Considering the storms and tree damage over the last
2 years, this is an idea whose time has come!
My theory is that if the Grand List shrinks Weston's school budget doesn't have
to. Consider this - we will have a $9.6 million surplus next
year. To maintain the percentage of surplus at "14%" or perhaps
even lower %, the total amount
goes down! This is this website's observation that is only
All the "usual suspects" up
Speak Up came Saturday before the budget meetings.
of First Selectman's Proposed
Budget here. The full proposed budget here.
Our question is what about the possibility of losing all or part of
"car tax" revenuje stream? Have we budgeted for this?
from the Superintendent
of Education voted to approve its FY2014 budget Thursday, January 24,
2013 - on Town TV - $46,293,666 (1.55% increase). NOTE:
They commented on the new unfunded mandates from Governor's Education
Reform package last year - our method as cheaper and worked well, now
we have to be more bureaucratic and shuffle more papers (my summary of
comments by Board). Any new "security" features here?
Board of Education Budget: First
comes the Budget Workshops based on the Superintendent's proposed
As reported in the FORUM - Superintendent's
Proposed Budget FY14
Executive Summary: http://www.westonps.org/uploaded/budget2014/ExecSummary14.pdf
THE NEW TOWN OF WESTON CHARTER
Please note that there have
already been meetings of the Capital Planning Committee, we
think. These meetings not mentioned in the schedule: What
is the interpretation of Article
Monday, November 19, 2012 – Budget package/forms sent to
Thursday, December 13, 2012 – Departments submit budget requests to
Town Administrator/Finance Director. (Charter requires submission
by January 14 of each year).
Since the Charter Revision passed we are operating on
a new schedule which says:
FINANCE AND TAXATION
Section 9.1 Preliminary Budget Estimates
All budget requests shall be made on or before January 14th of each
year, except that the Board of Education request shall be made on or
before February 3rd. These requests shall be filed with the First
Selectman and shall contain a detailed estimate of expenditures and
revenues, other than tax revenues, in the ensuing Fiscal Year. Except
for the request by the Board of Education, such estimates shall be
accompanied by a statement setting forth, in such form as the First
Selectman may prescribe, the services, activities and work accomplished
during the current Fiscal Year and to be accomplished during the
ensuing Fiscal Year.
Section 9.2 Duties of the First
Selectman on the Budget
The First Selectman shall compile preliminary estimates for the Town’s
operating budget, the Board of Education’s operating budget, the
capital improvement budget and the Town’s debt service (which shall be
referred to collectively as the “Annual Town Budget”) for the ensuing
Fiscal Year. Not later than February 10th of each year, the First
Selectman shall present to the Board of Selectmen a proposed budget
(a) a budget message outlining the proposed financial policy of the
Town government, describing the important features of the proposed
Annual Town Budget, indicating
any major changes from the current Fiscal Year in financial policies,
expenditures and revenues together with the reasons for such changes,
and containing a clear summary of the Annual Town Budget’s contents;
(b) estimates of revenue, including the receipts collected in the last
completed Fiscal Year, the receipts collected during the current Fiscal
Year prior to the time of preparing the estimates, the receipts
estimated to be collected during the current Fiscal Year, estimates of
the receipts, other than from the property tax, to be collected in the
ensuing Fiscal Year, and an estimate of the then available surplus; and
(c) itemized expenditures for each Town department and each Board and
Commission for the last completed Fiscal Year, expenditures for the
current Fiscal Year prior to the time of preparing the estimates, total
estimated expenditures for the current Fiscal Year, and the First
Selectmen’s recommendations for the ensuing Fiscal Year for all items
except those of
the Board of Education, which the First Selectman shall transmit to the
Selectmen as submitted to the First Selectman by the Board of
Education. The First Selectman shall present reasons for all of the
First Selectman’s recommendations. As
part of the budget of the First Selectman, the First Selectman may
present a program previously considered and acted upon by the Town
Planning and Zoning Commission, in accordance with Section 8-24 of the
General Statutes, of proposed municipal improvement projects for the
ensuing Fiscal Year and for at least the five Fiscal Years thereafter.
Estimates of the costs of such projects shall be submitted annually in
the form and manner prescribed by the First Selectman. The
First Selectman shall recommend to the Board of Selectmen those capital
projects to be undertaken during the ensuing Fiscal Year and the method
of financing same.
Section 9.3 Duties of the Board of
Selectmen on the Budget
The Board of Selectmen shall review the First Selectman’s proposed
Annual Town Budget, including the proposed budget of the Board of
Education. The proposed Annual Town
Budget, including such alterations or changes deemed necessary by the
Board of Selectmen, shall be presented to the Board of Finance not
later than March 1 of each year. The proposed Annual Town Budget shall
include the budget proposal of the Board of Education, but any changes
to the Board of Education’s proposed budget as may desired by the Board
of Selectmen shall be in the form of recommendations only.
Section 9.4 Duties of the Board of
Finance on the Budget
(a) After the Board of Finance has received from the Board of Selectmen
the recommended Annual Town Budget, the Board of Finance shall hold one
or more public hearings at least two weeks before the date of the
Annual Town Budget Meeting, at which any Qualified Voter may be heard
regarding the recommended appropriations for the ensuing Fiscal
Year. At least ten days in advance of any such public hearing, the
Board of Finance shall give Public Notice of such public hearing,
together with the proposed appropriations of the Board of Selectmen and
the proposed appropriations of the Board of Education, in condensed
form. Sufficient copies of the proposed appropriations shall be
available for general distribution in the office of the Town Clerk,
online and at the public hearing. At the public hearing the First
Selectman shall present the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen
regarding the composition of the Annual Town Budget and the individual
appropriations comprising the Budget for the ensuing Fiscal Year.
(b) After the public hearing(s) the Board of Finance shall make such
revisions to the proposed appropriations as the Board of Finance deems
advisable and shall thereafter recommend the proposed appropriations
(as revised by the Board of Finance, if applicable) to the Annual Town
Section 9.5 The Annual Town Budget
(a) The Annual Town Budget Meeting shall be held not later than the end
of the first full week in May of each year. It shall be called to order
at 8 PM and, if it has not completed its business by 11:30 PM, the
moderator shall adjourn the Meeting to 8 PM of successive evenings
(adjourning at 11:30 PM if necessary) excepting Saturdays, Sundays and
Holidays, until its business is completed. Public Notice of the Notice
and Call of the Annual Town Budget Meeting shall be published at least
five days prior to the Meeting. The published and posted Notice and
Call shall be accompanied by the proposed appropriations, in condensed
form, as recommended by the Board of Finance for the ensuing Fiscal
(b) The Town Clerk shall ensure that sufficient copies of the proposed
appropriations are made available for general distribution in the
office of the Town Clerk at least five days prior to the Annual Town
Budget Meeting and at that Meeting.
(c) The Notice and Call of the Annual Town Budget Meeting shall:
(i) list the line items that the
Meeting is legally entitled to amend, namely, the appropriations in
Board of Selectmen’s proposed operating budget, the Board of
Education’s proposed operating budget (as one line item) and the
Sufficient copies of the Notice and Call shall be made available for
general distribution in the office of the Town Clerk, online and at the
Annual Town Budget Meeting.
(ii) set forth the Town’s debt service budget;
(iii) state the proposed rate of taxation, indicating the portion
attributable to uncollectable taxes, for the ensuing Fiscal Year;
(iv) state in its preamble who is legally entitled to vote at the
Annual Town Budget Meeting;
(v) specify the circumstances under which, and the manner in which, the
proposed budgets may be reduced at the Annual Town Budget Meeting; and
(vi) contain any other information required by the General Statutes or
(d) The Annual Town Budget Meeting shall consider, discuss and take
action on the proposed appropriations as follows:
(i) no appropriation shall be made
exceeding that for the same purpose
recommended by the Board of Finance, or for any other purpose not
recommended by the Board of Finance;
(ii) if, and only if, at least two percent of Qualified Voters are
present at the Annual Town Meeting, any individual appropriation that
is listed on the Notice and Call of the Meeting may be reduced to an
amount less than that recommended by the Board of Finance by a vote of
a majority of those Qualified Voters present and voting. Any motion to
reduce the sum of appropriations in the proposed Annual Town Budget
must specify the individual line item to be reduced and the amount of
the proposed reduction; and
(iii) the consideration of any proposed decrease in any individual
appropriation pursuant to Section 9.5(d)(ii) above shall be by secret
ballot if requested by a number of Qualified Voters equal to not less
than one-third of those Qualified Voters present at the Meeting.
Section 9.6 The Annual Town Budget
Voting on the proposed Annual Town Budget, as approved by the Annual
Town Meeting, shall be by machine voting. There shall be separate votes
on the following components of the Annual Town Budget:
(i) the Town’s
proposed operating budget,
voting shall commence immediately after the Annual Town Budget Meeting
and shall continue that day as long as necessary, in the judgment of
the Registrars of Voters, to accommodate all those seeking to cast
votes at that time. Voting shall recommence between seven and fourteen
days following the Annual Town Budget Meeting, and shall occur during
the hours permitted by Section 7-7 of the General Statutes. Each
component of the proposed Annual Town Budget set forth above shall be
approved if a majority of Qualified Voters who vote approve that
component. At the discretion of the Board of Selectmen, the ballot may
permit any Qualified Voters who wish to reject a proposed component or
components of the Annual Town Budget to indicate whether they would
reject the proposed component(s) because they are too high or because
they are too low.
(ii) the Board of Education’s proposed
operating budget and
(iii) the proposed capital improvement budget.
Section 9.7 Procedure if the Budget is
(a) If one or more components the proposed Annual Town Budget are not
approved pursuant to Section 9.6, the component(s) of proposed Budget
that have not been approved shall be reconsidered by the Board of
Finance and such component(s) shall be resubmitted to Qualified Voters
between ten and twenty-one days after the date the machine voting was
completed under Section 9.6. Voting shall occur by machine ballot, and
Public Notice of such vote shall be given at least five days prior to
the date of the vote. The resubmitted
proposed component(s) of the Annual Town Budget shall be approved if a
majority of Qualified Voters who vote approve such component(s). At the
discretion of the Board of Selectmen, the ballot may permit any
Qualified Voters who wish to reject a component or components of the
proposed Annual Town Budget to indicate whether they would reject the
proposed component(s) because they are too high or because they are too
(b) Should any component of the proposed Annual Town Budget be rejected
again, the process described in Section 9.7(a) shall be repeated with
respect to that component until the Annual Town Budget is approved.
(c) In the event that the Annual Town Budget has not been adopted by
July 1 of any year, the budget appropriations of the previous Fiscal
Year shall serve as an interim budget to allow for the continued
operation of Town services, and the Board of Selectmen, with the
approval of the Board of Finance, from month to month thereafter until
the Annual Town
Budget has been approved, may meet the obligations of the Town in
accordance with said interim budget
(i) by borrowing funds by way of tax anticipation notes,
(ii) by taxation at a mill rate set by resolution of the Board of
(iii) by drawing upon funds in possession of the Town, or
(iv) by a combination of two or more of these means; provided
that if option (i) or option (ii), or a combination of them,
is utilized, then within ten days after the Annual Town Budget has been
approved the mill rate shall be fixed sufficient to fund the total
anticipated obligations of the Town during the remainder of the Fiscal
Year, including the repayment of all tax anticipation notes outstanding.
Section 9.8 Filing the Approved Budget
An official copy of the Annual Town Budget as finally approved shall be
filed by the Board of Finance with the Town Clerk within one week
following final approval. Within ten
days after the approval of the Annual Town Budget, the Board of Finance
shall, by resolution, fix the tax rate in mills that shall be levied on
the taxable property in the Town for the applicable Fiscal Year.
Town and city advocates call for
local aid in state budget
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 12:13 am, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
HARTFORD -- The chief lobbying organization for Connecticut's towns and
cities wants the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to
compromise and use an anticipated $52 million increase in state revenue
to offset proposed cuts in local aid.
The budget passed by the legislative Appropriations Committee last week
is not as bad for cities like Bridgeport, Norwalk, Danbury and Stamford
as Malloy's February proposal. But it is far worse for some towns,
including Stratford, Ridgefield and Greenwich.
Overall, the committee approved $152 million in cuts to municipal aid,
compared to $128 million in reductions recommended by the governor on
the proposed 2-year, nearly $44 billion budget.
"There are winners and losers," said Jim Finley, executive director and
CEO of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. "Overall, in
regard to operating revenue on the non-education side of town and city
government, it's a loss of an additional $24 million on top of what the
The only good news from the Legislature is that Malloy's plan to scrap
Payments in Lieu of Taxes, annual payments from the state for hosting
tax-exempt property, was rejected by lawmakers, Finley said.
But even that was cut by $11 million in the powerful Appropriations
Committee, along with an $11 million cut in casino revenue projections.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said Tuesday that the committee budget "is
a marked improvement," but he still has many concerns. Without funding
for public and private school transportation, city taxpayers would have
to shoulder an unreasonable burden, Finch said.
The PILOT cut, for untaxed college and hospital property, is still too
large, he said.
"These items are never fully funded, and deeper cuts to our
reimbursements will not leave us with many options," said Finch, a
former state senator. "Our city serves as the nonprofit hub for the
region -- thousands of people come here to take advantage of the
services at hospitals and colleges, but our taxpayers have to unfairly
shoulder the costs of nontaxable buildings and land."
He said every dollar of state aid that gets cut means higher local
"Our taxpayers have been loud and clear on this issue -- they don't
want to see their taxes raised through the roof because the state is
taking away funding to our city," Finch said. "Our legislators need to
continue to work harder to find a way to restore these funds to the
Another former state lawmaker, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, said that
he wished Malloy had been up-front with towns and cities in February
and proposed a 5 percent cut in aid, instead of promising level funding.
Despite the CCM's calculation of a $3.6 million loss under the
legislative version of the budget, the real effect for his city is
closer to $900,000 because education funding is up, Boughton said.
"I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt," said Boughton, who has voiced
interest in running for governor next year.
He said that the back-and-forth between legislators and Malloy will
mean uncertainty as Danbury finalizes its budget in the first week of
May. "They're now going to negotiate the difference and what's deeply
frustrating to us is the lack of transparency and candor," he said.
The governor's office recently projected that sales and income tax
revenues may increase by $52 million over previous estimates. That
money should be given to towns and cities when the governor's office
and legislative leaders negotiate a final budget compromise as the
General Assembly heads to its June 5 deadline, Finley said.
"If the Legislature is going to consider revenue enhancements, we would
like some of those proceeds filling the municipal aid gaps," Finley
said, adding that it was surprising that the Appropriations Committee
made larger aid reductions than Malloy.
Last week, the tax-writing Finance Committee approved a budget that
would extend some existing business and petroleum taxes that were
scheduled to end, but did not increase the rate of the personal income
"We didn't expect that the total amount of General Fund revenue cut
would be more than the governor," Finley said. "We thought that we
would do a little better than the governor proposed, overall."
He said the key victories in the committee were the restoration of both
the PILOT system and the direct revenue from a portion of the
slot-machine wagering at the Indian casinos.
"Those are long-term wins that will pay off over time," Finley said.
"If those grants were eliminated, we would never get them back."
Malloy 'looked at opportunities' to provide relief from car tax, but
won't disclose budget plans
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
February 1, 2013
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirmed Friday that his administration has
looked for ways to provide "some level of relief" from municipal
property taxes on cars, but he wouldn't say whether it would be
included in the new budget he will propose to legislators Wednesday.
"I have looked at opportunities to bring some level of relief, but they
are few and far between," Malloy said in response to a question from a
When pressed about whether he would propose a plan to reduce or end the
unpopular car tax, the governor only repeated that opportunities for
change "are few and far between under the circumstances that we're
Those "circumstances" are a projected $1.2 billion shortfall built into
the coming fiscal year based on current spending and revenue trends, a
gap equal to about 6 percent of annual operating costs.
"Hey listen, I'm not presenting the budget today," the governor said,
before he quickly corrected himself and noted that further details
could appear in news reports in the coming days.
"As is tradition, some parts of it get somehow leaked," he said coyly.
"I don't know how that happens."
Because the governor's annual budget typically contains several
high-profile initiatives, administrations typically unveil several of
them beforehand, rather than have them all compete for limited news
coverage on the day the full budget is unveiled.
After learning from a source that the administration had studied
options to lessen the municipal property tax burden, The Mirror
reported Thursday that past governors faced with difficult budget
proposals had tried to work in a high-profile tax cut to cushion other
Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered a plan in 2007 to phase out the car
tax across five years.
Rell, whose biennial budget plan sought to raise $1.3 billion in income
taxes, would have sent $300 million of that back to communities to
offset the lost property tax revenue, and another $545 million to
ECS TASKFORCE RECOMMENDATIONS: Read full
report here. NOTE: Considering that most places lose
funding, how likely is it that the C.G.A. will OK it?
Honeymoon Is Over For Hartford
Board 'Flexing Its Muscle,'
The Hartford Courant
By JENNA CARLESSO
3:05 PM EDT, April 28, 2013
The nine city council members sworn in at the start of 2012 spent their
first year largely in step with Mayor Pedro Segarra.
The council approved numerous proposals set forth by the mayor, and
both sides communicated regularly on major issues, from the city budget
to legislative priorities.
But recently, reeling from staggering budget deficit projections and
with mounting frustration, council members have taken a stand against
Segarra. The council late last month passed an ordinance requiring the
mayor to get the panel's approval for any overtime pay or for hiring
not already budgeted — a measure that Segarra quickly vetoed.
Council members followed up by voting to reverse the veto — a move that
hasn't happened in years, possibly even decades, according to political
insiders — saying that they would work out details of the plan later.
Members also have criticized Segarra's practice of handing out bonuses
to city employees — more than $160,000 over the past three years — even
as the city has laid off workers. After some back-and-forth, the two
sides agreed to eliminate bonuses except for those already built into
And at least one councilman has expressed frustration over the
thousands of dollars spent by people in the mayor's office on travel,
dining and office equipment, among other things. Councilman Kenneth
Kennedy, a Democrat who until recently was a longtime supporter of
Segarra's, responded by introducing legislation that would ban the use
of all city credit cards.
Some council members said they're growing tired of the spending, as
Hartford faces increasing fiscal challenges, and of a mayor who appears
to be losing touch with the needs of his constituents.
"There's an agreement about things that need correcting in terms of how
the administration deals with the council and how it runs government,"
Kennedy said. "There's kind of this attitude [from the administration]
of, 'Leave us alone, we're doing this the right way.'"
The council has requested an audit of all city purchasing cards —
credit cards used by employees to pay for meals, travel and other
expenses. Members said they'll hold off voting on Kennedy's ban until
they review all of the documents.
Segarra said that council members' proposals — such as the plans to
eliminate bonuses and purchasing cards — don't reflect his overall
performance as the city's chief executive officer.
He said the bonuses were given to people who made strong efforts to
help offset city deficits and save money. In his budget address earlier
this month, he suggested streamlining Hartford's travel and technology
expenses with the hope of bringing down costs.
"Anyone who's looking at this objectively would see I'm moving the city
forward," Segarra said. "I understand very clearly that one of the
biggest challenges confronting the city has been poverty."
Segarra said he agrees with the council's concerns about overtime
costs, and is willing to work with members on a solution. He said that
better communication is needed from both sides, and he encourages
council members to suggest more solutions.
"If there was communication and collaboration, we could reach soaring
heights," he said. "The strategy I have relied on is communication. I
need to have a conversation with them on their expectations of me and
my expectations of them."
Councilman Alexander Aponte, a Democrat who is the panel's majority
leader, defended Segarra, saying that many of the attacks on the mayor
were politically motivated.
"The voters can say, 'We don't like the job the mayor is doing,' and
they can replace the mayor, but instead the council wants to replace
the mayor," he said. "It's naked political ambition."
Aponte, a Segarra ally, said that some of his colleagues were "jumping
ahead" by making decisions about finances prior to the release of
Segarra's 2013-14 budget proposal.
"Because of the large deficit next year, people are jumping the gun,"
he said. "Let them present the budget and then let us decide what we're
going to do."
"We should all be able to sit down and talk about this. We need open,
honest dialogue instead of issuing press releases."
Segarra has proposed closing what was projected to be a $70 million
deficit next year by making tens of millions of dollars in spending
cuts, through savings brought on by the restructuring of debt, through
employee concessions and by taking money from the city's rainy day fund.
Still, some council members expressed a need for greater fiscal control
as the city faces large budget deficits in the coming years. Future
deficit projections include: $72 million in 2014-15; $77.4 million in
2015-16; and $82.3 million in 2016-17, according to the city's
management and budget office.
"The theme of our actions is, we want to make the city better," said
Shawn Wooden, a Democrat and the city council president. "We're just
concerned about making sure we advocate for taxpayers in this city, our
residents. We're responding to what we hear, which has been concerns
about spending and waste in government."
Councilman Larry Deutsch, a member of the Working Families Party and
the panel's minority leader, said some council members have felt that
the mayor hasn't kept them informed about important issues, like city
"Generally, we don't feel like we're at the table when plans are
discussed for any development project," he said. "The city council in
general, and the minority party in part, receives plans and proposals
late in the game and without adequate information to see who's really
benefiting. Many times under [former Mayor] Eddie Perez and still under
Pedro we get proposals, but we don't have an awareness of the overall
Segarra said, however, that he has increased transparency in connection
with city finances and development projects. He said that he has
provided the council with monthly fiscal updates, term sheets, meeting
dates and times and details about offers.
Kevin Brookman, a Hartford resident who has written about city spending
issues on his blog, "We The People," said he was concerned about
several charges he noticed in a review of city purchasing card
statements, including dinners at high-end restaurants.
"I think a lot of people just feel that the administration is so far
out of touch with what the people of Hartford are feeling," Brookman
said. "There are plenty of people who would love to whip out a credit
card and buy dinner on the taxpayers' dime, but we don't have that kind
of luxury. It's also difficult for us to cry poverty at the Capitol
when there's spending like that."
John Kennelly, a member of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee and
former city councilman, said that although the city's economic strain
has created friction between the mayor and council, the rift is more
likely caused by the council's trying to figure out its role.
"Ten years out from when the strong mayor form of government was
adopted, the legislative body is finally, for the first time, flexing
its muscles and spreading its wings," he said. "They're trying to
figure out where they fit in the governance of Hartford."
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford
State and Bridgeport tussle over $3.3
million for schools
Brian Lockhartand Linda Conner Lambeck
Updated 12:23 am, Tuesday, May 7, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Mayor Bill Finch's administration is negotiating
feverishly in Hartford to shrink a state-mandated $3.3 million spike in
education spending that the mayor inexplicably left out of his proposed
Since Finch did not include the money in his 2013-14 fiscal plan,
Bridgeport officials are now trying to convince the state they should
not be on the hook for the $3.3 million because of all the unreimbursed
"in-kind" school expenses the city covers.
"If a city takes over some $1 million activity for the (school) board,
they get a credit, or vice versa," said Ben Barnes, head of the state
Office of Policy and Management, who participated in a conference call
on the topic Friday with the mayor's office. "So we've agreed to look
for some additional information from them. (And) we'll provide them
with some additional clarification of how we're interpreting the
For example, Bridgeport's Police Department took control of school
security. The city's public facilities department maintains the
district's buildings. If the city expanded those activities, it
count toward its school spending requirement. But just how much
that $3.3 million tab might be whittled away is unclear.
Any unanticipated expense is a problem for Finch, since his 2013-14
budget already increases the average homeowner's $6,822 property tax
bill by $391. Businesses paying an average $17,112 would pay an
additional $981. The mayor released a budget in early April that
flat-funded education despite being advised in mid-March by the state
that last year's education reforms required that Bridgeport spend $3.3
million more on its schools.
The city is one of several "alliance districts" -- underperforming
school districts that receive added state aid in exchange for
increasing local education spending over the next five years.
The dispute over the $3.3 million became public in late April after
Bridgeport Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas factored the funds into
his 2013-14 budget. Finch and his office have refused to discuss
matter publicly, instead issuing the same terse statements that the
administration is focused on a resolution.
"I don't know if it was confusion or if (the mayor's office) just chose
not to put it in. I don't know what those conversations were," said
state Sen. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport. "I do know we need to find a way
the city can get the funds it needs."
Ayala wants the state to also add the Finch administration's
investments in school construction toward the $3.3 million commitment
-- something not allowed under statute.
"Is that an education expense? Could that be included in that in-kind
contribution? Right now it's not ... I'd argue it should be
considered," Ayala said. "Would that open the flood gates for other
municipalities? They should have that bite at the apple, as well."
Any change to the education reforms will require support of key
legislators like the co-chairs of the General Assembly's Education
Committee, Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and Rep. Andrew
Fleischmann, D-West Hartford. In separate interviews, each said
are willing to listen to the Finch administration, but hesitant to let
Bridgeport off the hook for the money.
"I have some serious concerns," said Fleischmann. "It's not as if there
are indicators Bridgeport students in schools are reaching levels of
academic growth that would justify they have a completely different
system from all the other alliance districts."
Stillman noted Bridgeport has had a history of underfunding its schools.
"The reality is, it is the law," she said. "I think Bridgeport should
be able to do it."
But, she added, the Legislature does not adjourn for another month.
"We've got another few weeks and, hopefully, we can come to some
resolution," Stillman said.
But Bridgeport's City Council is scheduled to adopt a budget early next
week. Budget Committee co-chairwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, at a
meeting last week asked whether the city could begin charging the
school district for in-kind services. Vallas told the committee
weighing contingency plans.
"Do we need $3.3 million more? Yeah," Vallas said. "Can we live without
it? If we have to, we will find a way to do that."
But Vallas might also need to worry about even deeper cuts. Fleischmann
noted there is another way to alleviate Bridgeport's $3.3 million
burden: Cut state education dollars.
"I haven't heard that one proposed by anyone from Bridgeport," he said.
State warned Finch of $3.3
Brian Lockhart, CT POST
Updated 12:35 am, Monday, April 29, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Why did Democratic Mayor Bill Finch release a 2013-14
budget without acknowledging the state expected the city to hike
That's the $3.3 million question.
"We think the law's pretty clear," Andrew Doba, spokesman for Gov.
Dannel Malloy, said Friday.
In mid-March, two weeks before Finch briefed the Connecticut Post
editorial board on his proposed budget sent the document to the City
Council, state education officials, via email, reminded the
administration of its fiscal responsibilities to the Bridgeport public
"Remember you will need to increase next year's Board of Education
appropriation by $3.3 million to be compliant," Brian Mahoney, the
state Department of Education's chief financial officer, wrote Thomas
Sherwood, head of Finch's Office of Policy and Management.
The emails were released by the state education department late
Sherwood was perplexed, writing back he thought "Bridgeport would be
fine this year."
"Where does the ... increase come from?" Sherwood wrote. "I cannot just
increase the budget without that justification."
On the face of it, there is no mystery.
The state education reforms passed last year by Malloy and the General
Assembly required the lowest-performing districts, including
Bridgeport, to not only spend at least as much on education in 2013-14
as in the current fiscal year, but to increase that contribution by a
percentage over the next four years.
The multiyear program is referred to as the minimum budget requirement.
For fiscal year 2013-14, however, only Bridgeport is expected to
increase its education spending, state officials said.
Although the minimum budget requirement needs to be renewed by the
Legislature, Malloy and the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee
have signaled their strong support to do so.
In response to Sherwood's concerns, the state education officials
emailed the Finch administration their preliminary calculations behind
the $3.3 million. That was the last email provided by the state to the
Despite those mid-March warnings, when Finch released his 2013-14
budget April 1, the plan maintained the same level of funding for
schools as the current fiscal year.
Neither he nor Sherwood at the time gave any indication there was a
dispute with the state.
Finch did present three budget scenarios based on fears of severe cuts
in state aid. But none contemplated the possibility of having to spend
another $3.3 million on education.
"If it was even considered at risk it would have been put in each
(scenario)," said Councilwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, a co-chairman of
the council's budget committee. "It was mentioned to us as a logistic,
non-issue that needed to be ironed out."
But in mid-April Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas and the city's
school board unveiled a spending plan that counted on the $3.3 million,
and suddenly the matter moved from a logistical issue to a potential
The council is already struggling to close huge gaps in state aid
without agreeing to Finch's proposed $391 tax increase for homes and
$981 increase for businesses.
Finch thinks highly of Vallas, a celebrity in the world of education
reform on whom the mayor is counting to turn around the city's public
schools. And school board Chairman Kenneth Moales was Finch's campaign
But on the issue of the $3.3 million, Moales does not mince words.
"He is in trouble," Moales said recently. "Somehow, he is going to have
to come up with the extra dollars. If he doesn't, he is breaking
Finch declined to comment on the situation when approached by the
Connecticut Post Wednesday evening. Further questioning was cut off by
his spokeswoman, Elaine Ficarra.
"You're not going to put him on the spot over here ... to talk about
it, OK?" she said.
On Thursday, Ficarra issued a brief statement that the Finch
administration was "incredibly focused on this issue and we are working
diligently to resolve it," but offered no further explanation.
Doba confirmed a meeting has been scheduled this week between state and
State Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, said from what she understands,
there are differing interpretations of the minimum budget requirement
and how to apply the formula.
"This new law is complicated," Grogins said.
She also suggested there might have been some confusion in Bridgeport
because the governor and General Assembly still must vote to extend the
minimum budget requirement into 2013-14.
Brannelly said the Finch administration and the city's legislative
delegation have expressed confidence that the city will not be on the
hook for the additional $3.3 million.
"But clearly our committee is very concerned we will be responsible,"
Under the law, the city would have until the end of the next fiscal
year to come up with the $3.3 million. If noncompliant at the end of
that time, Bridgeport would lose double the amount in state education
aid for each $1 it fell short in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of
Municipalities, said the group has Bridgeport's back. Finch is a CCM
first vice president. Finley said the city is being put in an unfair
situation by the state.
"Bridgeport is almost the poster child of the challenges that our urban
centers face," Finley said. "Property taxes are extremely high in
Bridgeport for a variety of reasons ... At the same time, the state is
chronically under-funding education and also pulling back their support
on non-education revenues."
Council cuts budget proposals
Nanci G. Hutson
Updated 12:32 pm, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
NEWTOWN -- School leaders and several parents appeared pained Tuesday
night to lose another $750,000 from the proposed 2013-14 education
budget, far more than the $150,000 reduction to the town budget.
In a nearly three-hour session, the Legislative Council listened to
comments from education supporters, as well as taxpayers who said they
cannot afford any more increases, before they debated how to ensure
passage of the school and town budgets at the next referendum.
A week ago, the voters rejected a $72 million school budget and a $39
million municipal budget, which would've increased taxes by 4.7 percent.
The Legislative Council said the public priority remains school
security, and these budget cuts can be achieved without interfering
with the plan to provide armed school resource officers in each of
Newtown's seven schools.
The relocated Sandy Hook School in Monroe expects its police security
to be funded through grants.
A compromise to reduce just a half-million of the school budget failed
because the majority of Legislative Council members argued voters will
not accept the higher spending levels, particularly when school
enrollment is declining. The $750,000 reduction passed 9-3.
School Board Chairman Debbie Leidlein said the education budget was
painstakingly reviewed at all levels of town government and meets
federal and state mandates for educational progress.
"I can't publicly support this budget," she said.
She said the budget was prepared before the Dec. 14 mass shooting at
the Sandy Hook Elementary School. New priorities may arise becauses of
the tragedy. Without resources they will not be answered, she said.
All-day kindergarten, additional technology, and certain building and
maintenance projects may also be delayed.
Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson, who will leave the district
Friday, said this budget is so tight that she cannot find money to
replace classroom door locks. First Selectman Pat Llodra said the
school board can tap a capital reserve fund to cover the expense.
population of Newtown
over 27,000 - 4,400 voted
Newtown Voters Reject $111
Million Budget, Including Extra School Security
By MARK ZARETSKY, New Haven Register (MCT) McClatchy-Tribune News
10:47 a.m. EDT, April 24, 2013
Dec. 14 or no Dec. 14, many of the town’s residents just thought the
proposed 2013-2014 budget was too high, and they made their feelings
known Tuesday, rejecting both sides of the proposed $111.15 million
It would have amounted to a 4.71 percent increase.
The Board of Education budget was separated from the town budget as a
result of charter revision passed last November in the wake of last
year’s bruising process, when the combined budget finally was approved
on the fifth try.
Parents’ widespread desire for better security in the wake of the Dec.
14 mass shootings that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy
Hook Elementary School was the overriding issue throughout the process
leading up to the vote.
But none of that prevented voters from rejecting the proposal, kicking
the education budget to the curb by a 482-vote margin, 1,994 in favor
versus 2,476 opposed.
Voters rejected the town budget by a 66-vote margin, 2,207 in favor
versus 2,273 opposed.
Both budgets now go back to the Legislative Council for revisions.
In the advisory questions about whether each budget was too low, voters
in both cases overwhelmingly said the budgets were not too low.
The vote on the town budget was 299 to 3,926. The vote on the education
budget was 605 to 3,650.
“I don’t know how to interpret that,” a clearly disappointed First
Selectwoman Patricia Llodra said after the totals were announced.
“The voters have spoken. The budget needs to be adjusted. ... So we’ll
adjust the budget.”
Llodra said her sense from the additional advisory questions was that
“it would seem that the (Board of Selectmen) budget is about right.
With regard to specifics, “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she
Board of Education Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein said the school board
would do its best to come up with appropriate recommendations for the
“I’m disappointed,” Leidlein said. “I think the voters have
overwhelmingly answered the questions that they think the budgets are
She expressed the wish that “hopefully we can make some incremental
reductions, rather than drastic cutbacks as in past years.”
During last year’s budget process, the education budget was cut by an
additional $1 million, Leidlein said.
But “first of all, we have to give the Legislative Council some answers
going forward. ... We have to keep security and mental health top
priorities, so we will do that.”
But some other things will have to be cut, Leidlein said.
Legislative Council member Phil Carroll, R-3, also was surprised.
“From what I’ve been hearing from a lot of people, they weren’t going
to make a stink, but I just think they thought it was too big an
increase,” Carroll said. “A lot of people are just saying, ‘We can’t
The proposed $111.15 million combined budget represents a 4.71 percent
increase from the current year. Of that, about $72 million was the
Board of Education’s recommended budget, and $39 million was the Board
of Selectmen’s recommended town budget.
The proposed education budget represented a 5.5 percent increase while
they proposed town budget represented a 3.34 percent increase. As
written, the budget would have required a 33.7-mill tax rate, a 5.24
percent increase from the current year.
Between them, the school and town budgets included nearly $1 million to
hire additional police officers in order to have armed police resource
officers, as well as unarmed security guards in each of the district’s
seven schools. The bulk of that money, to fund the police
officers, was in the selectmen’s municipal budget, said Llodra.
Money for the unarmed security guards was in the school budget.
Funds also were in the budget to help pay security costs for the town’s
three private schools. Many residents coming out of the school
were more than happy to discuss how they voted and why.
“I voted yes. I think it’s necessary,” said Sandy Hook resident Judy
Rosentel. In fact, “I vote yes every year, and I didn’t want to come
back and vote again,” she said.
“I voted no on everything,” said Sandy Hook resident Jim Shpunt, a
member of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co. “I think the
budget is way out of line on everything. ... I think there are a lot of
ways we can save the town money,” he said.
“I voted for it,” said another Sandy Hook resident who would identify
himself only by his first name, Tom. Because of all the town has been
through in the past few months since the Dec. 14 mass shootings at
Sandy Hook Elementary School, “I guess for this election...I give them
the benefit of the doubt.”
But Nick Barzetti of Flat Swamp Road said he voted no, just like he
“I’ve been voting no for 40 years,” said Barzetti, who said his views
are pretty well known around town, in part because he’s not shy about
expressing them in letters to the editor of the local newspapers.
“I just think that a teacher making $80,000 to $90,000 a year, working
180 days ... I just think it’s an absolute” travesty, he said.
“A lot of people in town are paying $15,000 to $20,000 a year” in
property taxes, he said.
Karin Hooper, also a Sandy Hook resident, said she thought the total
was too high, so despite the issues about increase school security, “I
She’s not convinced that having armed officers in every school is the
way to go.
“I don’t know if we researched it enough,” Hooper said. She said she
would like to see aggressive research of other security measures
besides armed guards, including physical changes in the schools.
Monroe population approx.
19,500, @ 4000 voted
Monroe residents defeat $80.3M
MariAn Gail Brown, CT POST
Updated 12:19 am, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
MONROE -- After two budget referendums this month, town residents still
don't know how much money they will have to run their schools and local
government for fiscal year 2013-14.
That's because residents defeated a proposed $80.3 million budget
Tuesday by a count of 2,217 to 2,067, a difference of 150 votes.
The latest referendum put two questions before taxpayers -- one on the
budget and another on the school district's proposed 10-year contract
with Honeywell to bond energy and security upgrades at four public
While the budget is headed to a third referendum on May 7, the $3.8
million Honeywell contract passed, 2,578 to 1,670, a margin of 908
"I think we made a tremendous step forward and took a slight step
back," First Selectman Stephen J. Vavrek said after the results were
tabulated. "I think we put together a great budget with bipartisan
support across the board."
Opponents offered several reasons for voting against the spending plan.
Many residents said the overall budget increase of $1.7 million was too
steep. Others said they had "a distrust" of government.
Dan Harrington, the father of two college-aged daughters, called the
budget a reasonable one that preserved and expanded some services such
as street repairs.
"I like that it has some money in there for road maintenance, which has
been neglected for a while," Harrington said earlier in the day. "And I
don't want to be one of those typical people who don't have kids in the
schools who vote no on the budget because of education spending."
Like the first budget proposal on April 2, the budget defeated Tuesday
included funding for full-day kindergarten and stepped up security at
public schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre
less than five miles away.
As for the Honeywell contract, Elena Rockman-Blake, a financial analyst
who telecommutes, said that she had "confidence that the town will
achieve the energy savings" Honeywell and the town officials have
"I elected these people and I believe that I elected competent people
who can get things right," she said.
The town's two registrars of voters, Sue Koneff and Judy Stripay, added
four poll workers at two of the town's largest voting districts because
they anticipated a higher turnout than the first referendum. This was
because the Honeywell bonding contract was added to the ballot after
residents petitioned to have it put before the electorate.
"A petition signed by hundreds of people tends to raise voter turnout,"
Koneff said from her office late Tuesday afternoon, adding that
combining the two questions on the same date saves taxpayers between
$6,000 and $8,000, but makes counting votes take longer.
Jan Jurgielewicz IV, a jazz drummer and father of two young children,
said he supported the budget because it emphasized education.
Jurgielewicz, who sports an electric orange Mohawk that makes him hard
to overlook in a crowd, gave Vavrek a huge thumbs up outside the polls
as he headed into the building.
Jurgielewicz said he joins about a dozen Stepney School parents at his
son's bus stop every morning to talk about issues and current events,
including schools and taxes.
"We all reminded each other to make sure and get out to vote
(Tuesday)," he said. "We didn't tell each other how to vote, only to
vote. But we're all intensely interested in making sure that our
schools and our children have what they need to have to succeed."
budget in Monroe
MariAn Gail Brown, CT POST
Updated 10:55 pm, Tuesday, April 2, 2013
MONROE -- After two years of passing the budget on the first vote,
Monroe residents defeated a proposed $80.5 million package Tuesday.
Unofficially, the proposed 2013-14 budget was defeated 2,218 to 1,878.
The spending plan was voted down at all four polling places in town.
"It's back to the drawing board. I'm disappointed, obviously," First
Selectman Steve Vavrek said Tuesday night. "We had a lot of support
among parents. I've got to listen to the elected officials, some of
whom wanted much, much more cut out of this (budget)."
The next budget referendum is set for April 23, Vavrek said. Nick
Kapoor, a Democrat on the Town Council, was also disappointed.
"The citizens of Monroe have spoken and cannot support this year's
budget," Kapoor said. "This budget had many good things in it -- a
great plan for the fire services, mental health funding, a slight
increase in the education budget with savings maintained from energy
efficiencies ... and improvements to Wolfe Park, among many other
In exit polling Tuesday, neither supporters nor opponents of the
proposed budget wanted to predict the budget's chances of
Teresa Oleyar, a parent of four children -- three of whom are
school-aged -- said she couldn't handicap the vote, declaring it "too
close to call."
In the eight years Oleyar has lived in Monroe, many votes have been
squeakers. One of the key issues that drove her to support the
proposed budget is full-day kindergarten. Her son is enrolled in
kindergarten at Stepney Elementary School.
"I would like us to not be the only town around here to not have it,"
Oleyar said. "I think that it makes other towns seem more attractive,
and with our declining school enrollment, we probably should encourage
other families to move here (to reverse that enrollment trend)."
Along parts of Cutler Farm Road near Wolfe Park, a 300-acre, town-owned
recreation area where Little League baseball and other outdoor sports
are just getting under way, there were a handful of anti-budget signs
urging defeat of the spending plan. Monroe Town Clerk Marsha Beno
issued 119 absentee ballot applications to voters who informed the town
they would not be able to make it to the polls Tuesday. All of
absentee ballots were received in time to be counted for the
referendum, Democratic Registrar of Voters Sue Koneff said.
"I think this is a record for us," Koneff said. "I can't think of a
time ever when every single absentee ballot was cast."
Around 6 p.m., with only two hours left before the town's polling
places closed, 3,163 votes had been cast, not including the 119
absentee ballots. The number of votes cast at that time represented
about one-quarter of the town's eligible voters.
Last year, a total of 3,139 votes were cast and the budget won approval
by 30 votes.
Funding cut could close historic
Meg Barone, CT POST
Published 5:24 pm, Saturday, April 6, 2013
FAIRFIELD -- Drive by the Pequot Library any day and chances
are the front lawn will resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, with the
distinctive architecture of the 19th-century Southport landmark serving
as the backdrop for children at play, picnickers and dog walkers.
But visitors and staff may have had another painting in mind to
describe the atmosphere earlier this week -- Edvard Munch's "The
Scream" -- as they reacted with dismay to news that the Board of
Finance cut all town funding for the privately run library in the
proposed 2013-14 budget.
If the $350,000 proposed allocation --about one-third of the Pequot
Library's annual budget -- is not restored by the Representative Town
Meeting the library could be forced to close, said library Executive
Director Martha Lord.
"One of the problems that is of tremendous concern to us is that it
could potentially shut down the library because a third of our budget
just went away overnight with one vote," said Kelsey Biggers, a member
of the Pequot Library board and its former president. "Of all the items
that were cut ... we were the only ones that were zeroed out. We were
cut 100 percent. The library is in danger unless we can reverse this
decision or find an as yet unidentified way to close the gap."
Finance Board member Chris DeWitt said that the Pequot "is not our
library," adding if the Pequot Library were forced to close, patrons
could instead simply go to the main branch of the Fairfield Public
But several people pointed out that the public library does not offer
the same programming as the Pequot Library, nor does it have the same
charm, history or atmosphere. They said the Pequot Library is not just
a repository of books. "They think they're just taking away books,
(but) it goes beyond a lending library," said Elizabeth Patterson, the
library's director of development. The books are a starting point."
The library is perhaps best known to people outside the community for
its annual summer book sale, reputed to be among the largest in the
Northeast, as well as its renowned rare book collection.
"It's more of a community center, a small town community center," said
Jaclyn Picarillo, who brought her daughters Brooke, 3, and Margot, 1,
to the library this week for an activity in the children's section.
Jennifer Banks, of Fairfield, called the Pequot "an educational and
community resource for children and adults." Banks, who works as an
editor for a book publishing company, called the potential impact of
the funding cut "devastating."
"We need libraries," Banks said.
Lord, the executive director, said the Pequot Library attracts about
28,000 people each year. "That's significant. For most libraries that
would be a huge number. From a programming standpoint, we are very
active," she said.
The Pequot features fun, family-oriented activities, from typical
library story-time programs to the July Fourth Bike Parade and Holiday
Carol Sing, to concerts and author presentations. Other, more unusual
programs include a Scrabble club that meets weekly and a children's
Some people called the Finance Board's move short-sighted, saying the
five board members who voted to eliminate all of the library's town
support lacked understanding of the library's mission, programs and
services, which benefit all Fairfield residents.
As news of the cut spread, the library telephone began ringing and more
than 100 people had responded within hours of a library-generated
e-flier asking supporters to contact town officials by simply clicking
their computer mouses. Signs posted throughout the library asked
patrons to contact their RTM representatives.
Members of the District 1 RTM delegation, who represent the Pequot's
Southport neighborhood, are rallying in support of restoring the
"I am extremely upset that this resource used by the community, not
just District 1, is being zero funded," said Jay Lipp, R-1. "No other
program in the town experienced this cut."
Lipp said he had received hundreds of emails after the board's Tuesday
vote, and hopes the RTM would restore the funds if appealed.
For Eric Sundman, R-1, closing the Pequot Library "would be as terrible
as us having to close a school." He said his family visits the library
about three days a week.
"I could not imagine Fairfield without this iconic, community-centric,
historic treasure," he said.
Salem standardizes school day for all
By Kelly Catalfamo
Published 04/03/2013 12:00 AM
Salem - Next year, the school day will be the same for all students
from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at Salem School, a result of
declining enrollment and a decreased budget.
But at Monday night's Board of Education meeting, during which the
schedule changes were approved, parents expressed frustration with the
lack of communication.
"I don't feel like I have enough information on why this is occurring,"
said Denise Orsini at the meeting. "I just feel like parents aren't
really being made aware of what's going on."
Several parents said they heard nothing about the changes until they
received a paper in their children's take-home folders last week. The
note in the Wednesday folder mentioned that the school board would be
deciding between two different restructuring models but did not go into
detail about the reason such changes were being considered.
At Monday's meeting, board members and administrators explained the
rationale for the changes.
"I apologize that we haven't given you the information, but we're
making this change very quickly," said Linda Robson, adding the
long-term education planning subcommittee had only been considering the
models for about a month. "Some of what is driving that is the budget."
The Board of Finance recently asked the school board to cut its budget
by 1 percent. The proposed budget already included a reduction of six
full-time employees but had increased largely for reasons outside the
board's control, such as an increase in tuition fees for special
The board turned to restructuring to help decrease costs further.
Students will attend school from 8:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., which is the
current elementary school schedule. The middle school hours, which have
differed from the elementary school's for the past nine years, are
currently 7:35 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.
"The split schedule costs more in terms of staff," said school board
Chairman Stephen Buck. "No one intentionally left parents out, it just
snowballed in a hurry."
There are also benefits to a unified schedule outside the cost savings,
according to school administrators. Interim middle school Principal
Suzanne Zahner and elementary school Principal Cynthia Ritchie said the
changes will improve communication with staff by allowing them to hold
one schoolwide staff meeting instead of two separate ones.
It will also make it easier for staff members who serve both schools,
such as the speech pathologist and Spanish teacher, to respond to
requests. That is currently a "balancing act" because of the split
schedules, said Zahner.
The structural changes are also a response to declining enrollment in
Salem School. In 2001, the school had 599 students, but the number has
steadily declined to this year's 423. Robson said projections show that
the school will lose an additional 30 students in the near future.
With all grades on the same schedule, the school administration hopes
to train teachers to be content-specific rather than grade-specific.
That way, teachers could teach their subject matter to multiple grade
levels, compensating for the potentially tiny class sizes.
Also under consideration is the possibility of children in kindergarten
through eighth grade riding on the same bus, a source of concern for
some parents who spoke during the public comment period of the meeting.
Superintendent Joseph Onofrio said neighboring school districts of
similar size - Bozrah, Franklin, Lisbon and Voluntown - bus students in
kindergarten through eighth grade together.
"To be frank with you, our students are good kids," he said in response
to concerns about the different maturity levels of a kindergartner and
a middle schooler. "We do believe we can help some of them understand
the power of being a role model and helping younger students acclimate
At the end of the meeting, parents seemed to have a better
understanding of the restructuring but were still unhappy about the
"I would ask that next time you restructure the school, you do solicit
input from the community and from the staff," Salem parent Chris
Bennett told the board.
Orsini said after the meeting that she was still disappointed in the
level of parent involvement in the discussion. Although she had known
the school was considering changes, she said she had no idea they would
be voted on and implemented so soon.
She explained that parents received requests for input on changes to
the schedule after snow days and that the board did an excellent job of
communicating with them on that issue. She was disappointed that
parents were not asked to be as involved in this decision, which she
called a "big change."
Police budget is committee focus
Frank MacEachern, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:43 pm, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The police budget was a focus of a Board of Estimate and Taxation
workshop Tuesday before the board, in a little more than two weeks,
votes on the Greenwich municipal budget for 2013-14.
The total budget proposal for next fiscal year now stands at $431
million, a 6.7 percent jump over the current year's $404 million
budget, the first to top $400 million.
The police budget has become a hot topic after the BET's four-member
Budget Committee voted to take $600,000 from the Police Department's
salary budget and place it in a fixed charge account that would require
the department to come back to the BET if it needed the money.
The committee also voted to cut 10 positions out of the department's
155-officer table of organization. The department said it now has 144
officers due to retirements and the difficulty in placing recruits into
the Connecticut Police Academy.
Budget Committee Chairman Joseph Pellegrino said on Thursday that the
cuts are not permanent and he supports all ways for the department to
hire extra officers.
BET Chairman Michael Mason said the board wants to help the police
department have adequate staffing levels.
"Nobody is not willing to support that. The problem is how to get him
there," he said.
But one Budget Committee member, Democrat Jeffrey Ramer, said Tuesday
he believed cutting those positions from the organizational table is a
mistake. He said he believed it tied Chief James Heavey's hands as he
sought to hire new officers.
There was also a question Tuesday as to whether the Budget Committee
had cut the 10 vacant positions. Pellegrino said after the meeting they
will have to go back to the minutes of Thursday's meeting to see if it
"There was some ambiguity there," he said after Tuesday's meeting.
Sean Goldrick, a BET Democrat, questioned police staffing levels,
especially in light of what he said was a decline in the crime rate
locally and nationally during the last two decades.
"I suspect we are way over the norm in staffing per population," he
He also noted the Police Department created a narcotics unit three
years ago, only to see possession of small amounts of marijuana
decriminalized in the last 16 months.
Comments like that and what he perceived as the BET becoming involved
in police operations angered Democratic selectman Drew Marzullo who
attended the sparsely attended meeting at the Havemeyer Building.
Marzullo, who didn't speak at the meeting accused the board of "micro
managing" the police budget.
"They are slowly encroaching on the executive," he said in comments
outside the meeting. "If one wants to play police commissioner and
opine on organizational tables, crime rates and staffing, come November
run for first selectman."
Marzullo said his comments were directed at the entire BET and not at
his fellow Democrat.
Mason also warned that the town is facing future cost challenges such
as health and pension benefits that he said will put strain on future
"We have done yeoman's work, yet at the end of the day the pressure
will grow," he said.
The meeting had a time limit of six minutes per topic, with extensions
granted for thornier issues such as the police budget. The board
reviewed all aspects of the proposed budget.
The BET will host a public hearing on the budget on March 19 and vote
on it two days later.
The Representative Town Meeting will also vote on the budget.
RTM OKs $1.4M schools security
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Published 10:24 pm, Monday, April 8, 2013
Taking a lesson from Newtown, Greenwich committed $1.4 million in
taxpayer funds Monday night to beef up security at all public schools
An interim appropriation requested by the school district to help
fortify its facilities sailed through the Representative Town Meeting
in an 183-to-5 vote, with one abstention.
The vote took place a few hours after President Obama visited
Connecticut to promote a federal gun control package and met with
families of the victims of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School
The security upgrades planned by Greenwich mirror those recommended by
a panel appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the wake of the tragedy.
"We urge you to support it," Gordon Ennis, chairman of the RTM Finance
Committee, told the legislative body. "The only question that came up
is where do you draw the line when it comes to school security? We
think it's thorough."
In the near-term, Greenwich will replace all locks on classroom doors
so they can be secured from both the inside and outside.
Classroom doors can now only be locked from the outside.
The school district plans to use the funds for additional security
cameras; to upgrade intercom systems; reinforce windows with laminated
security glass; and to put shades on classroom doors and windows that
can lowered in an emergency.
Greenwich, anticipating there will be a demand for contractors to do
similar projects in other Fairfield County municipalities, will embark
on the project in the spring and summer.
"It's a very competitive situation out there right now," Schools
Superintendent William McKersie told Greenwich Time immediately after
the RTM's vote at Central Middle School. "We're going to move it as
fast as we can.
"It's been four months since a heavily armed gunmen smashed through the
glass doors of Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20
children age 7 and under, as well as six female educators in the worst
rampage of its kind in U.S. history."
A 16-page interim report released last month by the Sandy Hook Advisory
Commission specifically recommends that school districts install
Internet protocol security cameras, which are capable of sending live
video and data over computer networks.
"They're very consistent in what was produced in those other findings,"
said Josh Brown, chairman of the RTM Education Committee.
One question the committee asked school administrators and local police
was whether the security camera footage could be accessed by
"No remote monitoring would be possible, which was of concern to our
committee," Brown said.
The $1.4 million facilities initiative is the first of four prongs in a
broader plan to beef up security in Greenwich Public Schools.
The district is weighing the addition of a second full-time school
resource police officer to complement one assigned to Greenwich High
The increase in manpower would cost $80,000 to $100,000 annually in
salary and benefits, according to McKersie, who said the second school
resource officer would give police a presence in the three middle
schools. The school board could vote on the position as early as the
beginning of April, McKersie has said.
The third prong involves additional training for teachers to identify
threats and suspicious persons.
Lastly, the school district plans to revisit its entry procedures at
each of its facilities and roll out new ones later in the spring.
"It'll be a more rigorous entry process," McKersie said.
OKs $1.4M in school security upgrades
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 12:50 am, Tuesday, March 19, 2013
With school districts throughout
Connecticut on heightened alert since the December massacre in Newtown,
Greenwich officials tentatively agreed Monday night to invest $1.4
million in taxpayer funds to harden the security infrastructure at all
All 12 members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation supported an
interim appropriation for a checklist of security enhancements proposed
by school administrators in consultation with local law enforcement.
The school district plans to use the funds for additional security
cameras; to upgrade intercom systems; fix the locks on all classroom
doors so they can be locked from the inside by a teacher; reinforce
windows with laminated security glass; and to put shades on the windows
of classroom doors.
The unanimous BET vote at Town Hall coincided with Monday's release of
an interim report by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a panel
appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that recommended stricter school
"It validates in almost every area the approach we've taken," Schools
Superintendent William McKersie said of the report during an interview
with Greenwich Time.
This is a busy week for the finance board, which will hold a public
hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Hall Meeting Room on the proposed
$431 million town budget for next fiscal year. Its deliberations will
take place at 7 p.m. Thursday.
A major cost driver for the town is the direction of a $37 million
music instruction space and auditorium project at Greenwich High School.
Contractor bids on the project, which has been complicated by the
discovery of toxic soil on the campus, came in $7 million above initial
"These are crazy numbers. And they're crazy numbers because we feel
they are frightened by the site," Joseph Ross, chairman of the
project's building committee, told the BET.
The overage has school administrators re-assessing the scope of the
project, which could be scaled back by removing the auditorium's
orchestra pit or balcony.
"We're just going to have to bite the bullet on this. It's the end of
the line," said Sean Goldrick, a Democratic BET member and ardent
supporter of the project. "You know life sucks. Prices go up."
Joseph Pellegrino, chairman of the BET's Budget Committee, called the
option of removing the balcony a non-starter.
A Republican, Pellegrino urged the school district not to treat the
project in isolation of other pressing issues such as racial imbalance
in the schools, space utilization and the implementation of a costly
digital learning program.
"You need to start taking a holistic approach as a board to providing
the best education possible in this country of our pupils," Pellegrino
Leslie Moriarty, the school board's Democratic chairman, said the
district is doing its best to prioritize.
"The Board of Ed has been very up front about the issues facing us,"
No decision was made on which avenue the district will pursue on the
In contrast, the school security initiative was a slam dunk.
It's been three months since a heavily armed gunmen smashed through the
glass doors of Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20
children age 7 and younger, as well as six female educators in the
worst rampage of its kind in U.S. history.
The interim appropriation must go before the Representative Town
Meeting for final approval in April.
The school district, anticipating there will be a demand for
contractors to do similar projects in other Fairfield County
municipalities, is eager to embark on the project in the spring and
"Some of the work can move along quite quickly," McKersie said.
The 16-page interim report released by the Sandy Hook Advisory
Commission specifically recommends that school districts install
Internet protocol security cameras, which are capable of sending live
video and data over computer networks.
"I am troubled by what sort of learning environment that creates,"
Goldrick said of cameras.
When the funding request was presented to the BET Budget Committee last
week, Goldrick noted that Columbine High School had surveillance
cameras at the time two students killed 13 people and then themselves
Goldrick ultimately deferred to the recommendations of the special
panel appointed by the governor, however.
"So in light that it was an authoritative commission that worked on
that, I will withdraw my objections," Goldrick said.
The $1.4 million facilities initiative is the first of four prongs in a
broader plan to beef up security in Greenwich Public Schools.
The district is weighing the addition of a second full-time school
resource police officer to complement one assigned to Greenwich High
The increase in manpower would cost $80,000 to $100,000 annually in
salary and benefits, according to McKersie, who said the second school
resource officer would give police a presence in the three middle
schools. The school board could vote on the position as early as the
beginning of April, McKersie said.
The third prong involves additional training for teachers to identify
threats and suspicious persons.
Lastly, the school district plans to revisit its entry procedures at
each of its facilities.
McKersie said the commission's interim report is consistent with the
planned improvements to school buildings.
"That's sort of the latest confirmation that we're on the right path,"
McKersie: Armed school guards
Lisa Chamoff, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:23 pm, Friday, January 18, 2013
The schools chief has indicated that despite pressure from some
parents, it is not likely that armed guards will be placed in the
Superintendent of Schools William McKersie told a crowd at the
Riverside Association's annual meeting that the group of educators and
town officials evaluating school security in the wake of last month's
shooting rampage in Newtown is "strongly leaning not to add in more
The first question McKersie received after his 10-minute presentation
during the gathering at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Riverside Avenue
was about whether administrators had come to a decision on hiring armed
McKersie said that during his meetings with other town officials,
including Police Chief James Heavey, the group was mainly focused on
other issues, such as access to schools and security procedures. He has
also met with superintendents from other Fairfield County school
"Most districts in the country will not be adding armed guards," he
There was a great deal of debate when Greenwich High School got its
first school resource officer, an armed police officer integrated into
the school community. McKersie said they have been discussing similar
arrangements for the town's middle schools, but there has not been much
discussion about putting officers at the elementary schools.
McKersie said the district would not cave in to public pressure to
place armed guards in all schools.
"Whether or not we have armed guards in our schools will not be a
parent decision," McKersie said.
Not all parents think armed security is the right answer, even after
the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Christina McGlone, whose daughter is a third-grader at Riverside
School, said administrators should pay more attention to regular
security procedures. She recalled volunteering for lunch duty at
Riverside one afternoon after the Sandy Hook shooting, and noticing a
car with New York license plates parked in the fire lane outside the
school. No one knew who the car belonged to. Visitors, after being
buzzed in, can sometimes make it past the main office without having to
"I think some of those procedural issues should be addressed before we
jump to armed guards," McGlone said.
Bill Baxter, who has a pair of children attending Eastern Middle School
and two children attending Greenwich High School, noted it would cost
too much to put at least two armed officers at all 15 of the town's
"Are you going to fire 30 teachers?" Baxter said.
The environment at schools like Riverside, where parents often
volunteer, would also be changed, Baxter said.
"If you start making it a prison, something that's that secure, I think
you lose that," Baxter said.
The group reviewing school security plans to meet this month to bring
together data on the issues and map out costs of any changes that need
to be made, McKersie said.
Student arrested for making
Published 9:17 am, Saturday, January 19, 2013
TRUMBULL -- A Trumbull student has been arrested after making threats
while leaving the school, about returning in a manner similar to the
tragedy at Sandy Hook, police said. The incident occurred at
Cooperative Educational Services, located on Oakview Drive.
According to WTNH, staff members said a student at the school was being
told he could no longer return there. The student's mother arrived to
take him home and as he was leaving, he made a threat to return to the
school in a manner similar to the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Officers
were immediately assigned to the school's two locations and police
prepared a search warrant for the suspect and any weapons, WTNH
James Patrick Ryan, 18, of 1181 South Ave., Stratford, was charged with
second-degree threatening and second-degree breach of peace. Bond
was set at $25,000. He is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 28.
The incident was the second time this week a student made a school
On Wednesday, the Bridgeport Police Department's SWAT team raided the
home of a teenager after he allegedly posted threats on Facebook that
he was going to shoot up Central High School. Detectives from the
department's youth bureau obtained a search warrant for the youth's
home and the SWAT team went to the home shortly after 10 p.m.
Police spokesman Bill Kaempffer said school authorities notified police
that the youth, a student at Central, had posted on Facebook that he
was going to kill fellow students and that he was serious. The
16-year-old, who was not identified because of his age, was taken into
custody without incident. Police said no weapons were found in his
home, and his address was not disclosed. The youth was charged with
first-degree threatening and was turned over to juvenile authorities.
The threats came a little over a month after a gunman opened fire at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 20 first-grade
students and six school staff members.
City's debt payments set to jump
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 10:26 pm, Saturday, March 23, 2013
STAMFORD -- The city will pay 7 percent more next fiscal year to pay
off its outstanding debt, but at least one finance board member thinks
the Government Center is on the hook for even more debt than its books
Stamford will shell out $47.8 million for bond and related interest
payments next fiscal year, according to the Office of Policy and
The expense represents about 10 percent of Mayor Michael Pavia's $495.8
million proposed operating budget for 2013-14.
city's payments are well within the acceptable limits outlined by
credit rating agencies, Director of Office of Policy and Management
Peter Privitera said. Rating agencies like to see municipalities make
debt service payments equal to between 10 and 15 percent of their net
general fund debt service, and Stamford will pay about 10 percent of
its $501.3 million in outstanding debt next fiscal year.
Stamford maintains an Aaa credit rating from Standard & Poor and a
Aa1 ranking from Moody's Investor Services. The city sold $50 million
in 20-year general obligation bonds at a record-low interest rate of
2.25 percent earlier this year.
"We've never had any pushback from the rating agencies on our ratio of
debt," Privitera said Friday.
But Board of Finance Independent Kathleen Murphy pointed out Stamford's
debt service calculations do not encompass the Mill River capital
projects and parking funds, which ended last fiscal year with $1.1
million and $700,000 deficits, respectively. The city also doesn't
include the Water Pollution Control Authority, which spent $9.2 million
on debt service in 2012.
The parking fund and WPCA are considered "self-sustaining debt" in the
city's capital budget, but both agencies received city funding last
fiscal year. The Government Center gave $176,500 to the parking fund in
June to help cover operating costs. The Water Pollution Control
Authority, which is supposed to finance its own operations through user
fees, has used the city as a bank for years and is about $5 million in
debt to the Government Center.
"Some of these entities aren't so self-sustaining anymore," Murphy said.
Privitera said the parking fund ran a deficit because the Board of
Representatives lengthened its hours but did not raise its fees to
compensate for the additional operating costs.
"Did we have to cover the deficit in the parking fund last year? Yes,
we did, because they came up short," Privitera said. "But we're taking
steps to make sure they end the year in-balance. I'm not worried
whatsoever about the parking fund with respect to any effect on the
The WPCA, however, regularly dedicates a large portion of its revenue
to bond payments. Debt service ate up 40 percent of the facility's
$22.8 million budget last fiscal year.
"The WPCA is drowning in debt," Murphy said. "They collected $19
million in revenue in 2012. And $9 million has to go out for debt
service, before they pay for anything else."
Privitera said the WPCA's capital projects are financed through revenue
bonds paid for by user fees, meaning it does not overlap with the
city's debt service. But Murphy believes the sewage treatment plant and
its customers are shouldering some debt that should be on the city's
A $3.8 million storm water management study for the Mill River Park,
for example, was listed as one of the WPCA's capital projects at the
end of last fiscal year. About $1.4 million-worth of city bonds have
been appropriated to the project, meaning the WPCA pays debt service on
"All of that debt and the related debt service needs to come off their
books," Murphy said.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agrees. It
has sanctioned the WPCA in recent months for not properly maintaining
its infrastructure, and insists the sewage treatment plant turn over to
the city hurricane barrier maintenance and other capital projects that
are not related to wastewater management. The WPCA staff is working
with city administration officials to accomplish this, DEEP Sanitary
Engineer Carlos Esguerra said.
"In the short term, the SWPCA and the city have agreed to create a
(memorandum of agreement) that formalizes how hurricane barrier and
storm water-related costs will be transferred from the SWPCA to the
city," Esguerra said earlier this month in an email. "SWPCA expects to
have this memo approved by June 1, 2013."
Privitera said it is up to the Controller's Office to determine whether
there is any WPCA debt service that needs to be moved to the city's
"If the auditors, Controller's Office and WPCA determine there's debt
on the WPCA's books that belongs on the city's books and a
determination is made that we have to carry that debt, then we'll find
the appropriate way to do it," he said. "But as it stands right now I'm
not aware of any directive to transfer debt off of the WPCA books and
onto the city's books."
Murphy said she believes an upcoming independent audit of the WPCA,
requested by the Board of Representatives and commissioned by the Board
of Finance, will help identify any capital projects or related debt
service that should be handed over to the city. The review will focus
on nine financial and operational areas of the WPCA, including 10 years
of capital projects.
The Board of Finance's Financial Policy Committee has established
several new bonding policies over the last two years. As a result, the
city has accelerated its payment of short-term bonds.
"The Board of Finance wanted to make sure that assets that are only
useful for five years are paid off in five years," Privitera said. "Now
we're accelerating the payments on the short term, which means our debt
service is going to jump up."
The finance board, at the urging of Financial Policy Committee Chairman
David Martin, has also changed the way it allocates bond premiums.
Previously, this money was used to cover shortfalls in the city's
operating budget or put into a Debt Service Fund.
The debt service reserve totaled $6.3 million at the end of last fiscal
year, Privitera said. City officials plan to use $3.3 million of that
amount to mitigate this fiscal year's debt payments and $2.2 million to
offset next fiscal year's debt service.
"We basically reduced the debt service payment, which in effect reduces
taxes," Privitera said. "That's the way we used to do it in the past."
This practice cannot be repeated with the $2.5 million premium made off
of the city's recent $50 million bond sale, however. A recently-passed
Board of Finance policy requires the administration to put the money in
a fund used for capital projects and maintenance.
"If we're going to commit to pay this money back, I want to get an
infrastructure project out of it," Martin said. "Not use it now to pay
taxes. When you borrow long-term money, you want a long-term asset to
go along with it."
Looking to take advantage of the low interest rate climate, Stamford
has sold more bonds than usual over the past two years. This, coupled
with the new finance board policies, has increased the city's debt
"I don't anticipate any significant jumps moving forward; I think it's
going to level off," Privitera said. "But at this point we had a jump
up last year and we had a jump next year and we'll have to see where we
go after that."
Stamford's debt service has hovered around 9 or 10 percent of the
city's overall operating budget since 2005. Norwalk, which approved a
$288.2 million operating budget in fiscal year 2011-12, paid a similar
ratio of debt service -- 9 percent. New Haven's $475.4 million
operating budget was only $9 million larger than Stamford's last fiscal
year, but the city dedicated more, 13 percent, to debt payments.
Martin, who is running for mayor in November, said he is keeping a
close eye on Stamford's debt service but feels the city's payments are
"Our debt service ratios are fine," he said. "The fact that it's fine
should not be used as an excuse to hide operating deficits or fund
wasteful capital spending. But we still owe it, we have to pay it, so
whining about it doesn't help."
Murphy said she is worried the debt is growing too quickly.
"I'm sure with the city's growth we're going to have significant
capital expenses," she said. "But we don't have an unlimited ability to
do everything and everything now."
Board of Finance Chairman Tim Abbazia and Board of Representatives
Fiscal Committee Chairman Jay Fountain did not return calls for comment
Panic buttons in, security
guards out of new school budget
Public to get say on budget at
Maggie Gordon, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 11:51 pm, Tuesday, January 29, 2013
STAMFORD -- Superintendent of Schools Winifred Hamilton amended her
budget request Tuesday night, trimming $400,000, while adding seven
kindergarten teachers, two bilingual teachers and doing away with the
request for security guards in the city's elementary schools.
Two weeks ago, Hamilton unveiled a $245.4 million operating budget for
the 2013-14 fiscal year, which represented a 3.66 percent increase over
the current year. Her changes, announced during a fiscal committee
meeting, bring the request down to $245 million, which is slightly less
than a 3.5 percent increase.
The kindergarten teachers will be added to most of the city's 12
elementary schools, which would bring the average class size for
kindergartens below the 20-student mark -- a request that several board
members have tossed at the superintendent over the past couple weeks.
"I want to thank Dr. Hamilton for being responsive to several of our
requests about the kindergarten," Board member Jackie Heftman said.
The new positions, which combined with an additional request for
another two bilingual kindergarten teachers will cost $612,000, will be
partially offset by trimming two science teachers at both Stamford and
Westhill high schools, as well as opening up one teacher vacancy at
each of the schools.
"My intent was to not hopefully have to lose staff," Hamilton said
Tuesday night. She noted that all but one of the teachers who will be
affected are certified in other areas, so shifting throughout the staff
will likely allow the district to absorb most or all of the positions
instead of resorting to laying off staff.
Much of the savings comes from a shift in thinking in terms of school
security. Originally, Hamilton included a $600,000 request to hire a
security guard at each of the city's 12 elementary schools. But her new
request instead includes a $260,000 item to equip every staff member at
each building with a panic button.
"This system ¦ would basically be able to accommodate every
staff member in the building with a device that would automatically in
pushing a button, would call three numbers, including fire and police,"
"If a teacher was in the cafeteria and saw somebody in the yard with
what looked like a weapon, they wouldn't have to go back to their
classroom, or find a security guard. They could push a button and the
police would respond right away," she said.
The new thinking is partially shaped by the public reaction to the
security guard setup, according to the superintendent.
"As much as they've been terrific, people are asking, do they have a
gun? How much does one person help?" Hamilton said, ticking off a list
of questions she has been fielding from parents around the district
since she installed temporary security guards at the elementary schools
shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Board member Rich Lyons questioned the idea, asking for information
about false alarm rates and defects before the board made a decision.
"I think you might want to hedge some money in that account. They're
good in certain situations, but I'd love to see what the false
activation rate is, and what the response time is," Lyons said. "Post
Sandy Hook, you're talking false activation with 60,000 police, fire
and 911 responding."
Other board members questioned adding kindergarten classes without
equipping each new section with a paraprofessional. In previous
budgets, the city has always provided one paraeducator per kindergarten
section. Hamilton said the district is not contractually obligated to
provide a one-to-one ratio of paraeducators per kindergarten classroom
and that Stamford has a higher ratio than most surrounding districts.
Board members Lorraine Olson and Polly Rauh both asked to tack more
paraprofessionals onto the request.
"I'm really, really impressed, and I congratulate you for being this
creative," Olson said. "But I was wondering if we could stay at 3.6 and
put a para in for kindergarten for everybody."
Heftman asked that the $393,000 saved in Hamilton's trimming be added
to a "security reserve," noting that "it's hard to cut, but it's
impossible to add" to a budget. In the end, the board decided to go
forward proclaiming both the 3.49 percent increase and 3.66 percent
increase options to the public during the public hearing scheduled for
7 p.m. at Westover Magnet Elementary School, at which members of the
public will have their chance to voice concerns about the budget.
SCHOOL VIOLENCE AS REPORTED, AROUND OUR AREA (2010-2011), BY CT
Wilton Schools Seek 4.4 Percent More In
Wilton Daily Voice
Jan. 25, 2013
WILTON, Conn. – Wilton Public Schools will request a nearly 4.4 percent
increase in the 2013-14 Board of Education budget.
Superintendent Gary Richards and the Wilton school board unveiled a
$77.3 million spending plan for the next school year to parents and
other Wilton residents on Thursday. The spending package is 4.39
percent more than the current budget approved by voters last year.
Employee salaries make up the bulk of the budget, accounting for $45.77
million. That total is $1.41 million more than what is being spent on
salaries this year. Employee benefits will make up $15.1 million of the
proposed budget, about $506,000 more than 2012-13.
Several parents had questions about plans to move to daily all-day
kindergarten instead of having a pair of half-day sessions. Marissa
Lowthert said she’d like for the board to reconsider it so parents
could have more time to discuss it.
“There hasn’t been much time for parents to think about it,” she said,
noting there is research that shows full-day kindergarten can be
detrimental. “Wilton has a unique program where children get
small-group instruction and the Wilton Schools are recognized for
developing well-rounded children.”
Kara Berghaus supports the budget, but hopes district officials can
encourage a platform to focus on preschool and have more money and
staff put toward it.
“I feel like it (preschool) needs more attention. The population is
increasing … and the need for special services is increasing.”
Richards said the district will wait to hear from a newly formed
security committee before making many changes in school security. Many
school districts have started focusing on building security following
the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December.
The Wilton school board is expected to vote on the budget proposal Feb.
7. The Wilton Board of Finance will review the proposal March 27.
Manchester West High
closure on the table
members - especially vocal West Side member John Avard - caution that
nothing has been decided. But the words of a redistricting report have
reverberated throughout the West Side, which worries its landmark high
school may close within two years.
By MARK HAYWARD, New Hampshire Union Leader
23 Feb. 2013
MANCHESTER - It can be found nestled in Page 8, embedded within
Recommendation No. 3, of the redistricting report that was quickly
written this year by outgoing school Superintendent Tom Brennan.
School board members - especially vocal West Side member John Avard -
caution that nothing has been decided. But the words have reverberated
throughout the West Side, which worries its landmark high school may
close within two years.
"With current enrollment numbers, there is capacity to consolidate the
three (3) high schools into two (2) buildings (Central and Memorial),"
the report reads.
West Side residents and school board officials point out that the
report cautions against the consolidation and stresses that nothing has
been decided. But worries undeniably exist, given last month's
under-pressure resignation of West High Principal MaryEllen McGorry,
difficult school budgets and an ongoing dispute with Hooksett over city
"I don't know what to think of all the publicity," said Pauline Roth, a
treasurer with the West High booster club. "It's pretty sad when you
read about West and it's all a negative."
West High is the smallest of the city's three high schools. It schools
1,167 students, according to enrollments provided Friday by the school
district. Of those, 143 are from neighboring Hooksett, which has said
the city is in breach of its agreement to properly educate Hooksett
high school students. The town wants out of the contract and wants to
enroll its children in schools outside Manchester.
"Today, I have ruled out closing West, but I'm only one vote on the
school board," Mayor Ted Gatsas said Friday. He also said there's no
telling what the future will hold.
Ask him about West, and Gatsas talks about Hooksett. He said the
tuition agreement calls for the city and Hooksett to discuss making
West the designated high school for Hooksett, but those discussions
haven't taken place. He said Hooksett needs to stop approving transfers
to schools outside of Manchester. And he said the town should rescind
its letter of breach. Gatsas said many options exist for West. He
mentioned turning the school into an academy, one of the suggestions in
a 2007 report that was written after Bedford exited West. None of the
recommendations were ever implemented.
He said West could become a STEAM academy - one where science,
technology, engineering, arts and math are emphasized. "Certainly, we
would want to make it the best high school in the state of New
Hampshire," he said.
West Side residents said they embrace their school with as much pride
as parents and students of Central and Memorial. Gary Therrien,
president of the West High Booster Club, said the media is not a fan of
But the school has its good points: A lacrosse coach recently restarted
the program and raised enough money to purchase equipment. West is home
to the city's only four-year theater program, which traveled to
Scotland for a competition last summer. And West is also home to the
city's only Junior ROTC program. Therrien said he doesn't think
the city will close the school, but it would be a detriment to the city.
"Most students at West walk to school because of its location. Many
students that now get to play sports would not be able to at the other
schools because they have only played for a year or two," he said.
"Closing West is an easy solution as opposed to redistricting the city."
Avard said closing West would affect 1,000 students. He said West is
not half-empty, as many believe. It also is the magnet school for
autistic children and children with emotional disorders; they need
smaller classes than the average student, he said.
He also disputes recently publicized remarks that school board
committees unanimously approved recommendations on what to do about
West. The Manchester school board recently told Brennan to go forward
with revisions to elementary school boundaries, but neither committee
has acted on the recommendations that involve West, Avard said.
"It's an open question," Avard said. "There's no set plan being brought
forward saying this is what they're going to do."
The report does cry for action. Manchester school enrollment is
down about 1,500 from what it was seven years ago.
Over the next nine years, city school officials see little change in
city school K-12 enrollment, which will vary from 15,243 to 15,705,
according to projections. At present, 549 of those students are
Hooksett high school students, most of whom attend Central or
West. The report notes that in 2007 recommendations were made to
convert West into a charter school, a magnet school or an academy.
Both Therrien and Roth have a simpler notion: redistrict city high
schools to even the population and bring more students to West. As a
smaller school, West has lost girls' field hockey and lacrosse, Roth
said. And Avard has fought a recent plan to set minimum class sizes,
worrying about the effect on West.
However, both the 2013 and 2007 redistricting proposals said it would
be difficult to move students who live east of the Merrimack River to
West High. School locations and water barriers restrict boundary
adjustments, the reports say.
The 2013 redistricting proposal notes that Northwest Elementary is
overcrowded, and it encourages a fresh look at controversial 2007
recommendations for the West Side. Those called for:
-- Turning the three West Side elementary schools into early elementary
schools (pre-K through Grade 3).
-- Converting Parkside Middle School into an upper elementary school
(Grades 4 through 6).
-- Hosting Grades 7 through 12 at West High School.
Physical barriers would have to be erected at West to keep the middle
school students separate from high school students, Avard said. He's no
fan of the idea.
"What are you correcting? What are you fixing?" Avard said. "It's not
going to improve West, it's going to shuffle students from one school
Manchester N.H. new police
station on Valley Street is shown. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
December 26, 2012 8:40 am: Good for the
MPD to have space to grow and to finally be treated with the respect
they deserve. The next obvious question is when will the educational
staff in the city be given what they need to provide what the children
Manchester police force's new
home has twice the space, room to grow
By DALE VINCENT, New Hampshire Union Leader
December 25. 2012 9:56PM
MANCHESTER -- The phone number will be the same - 668-8711 - but that's
about all when the Manchester Police Department moves into its new home
at 405 Valley St.
The move begins Thursday, Jan. 3, when patrol, dispatch and booking
will be working at the Valley Street site, with traffic and records
still based at the 351 Chestnut St. site. On Friday, the records office
will close at noon on Chestnut Street and reopen Monday morning at the
Valley Street address, along with all other department operations.
Manchester Police Chief David Mara said the careful planning for the
new building should ensure it will meet the department's space needs
for the next 30 years.
There are extra lockers in the men's and women's locker rooms, a total
of 265 for male and 39 for female officers, as well as more desks than
are currently needed in several divisions and more cells than are
needed on a daily basis.
"There's room for growth here," said Mara, who is convinced it will
come, although he notes he won't be overseeing it...