"About Weston" providing temporary hosting for WFFR - our older WFFR page here.

Weston For Fiscal Responsibility: It is that time of year again, get out your calculators, green eyeshades...
A non-partisan coalition for enhancing citizen participation in government.



Board of Finance Public Hearing 4-2-14 had a tax and spend feeling...

Making perfect sense was WFFR member, who pointed out the danger the community might be facing.
FY'15 BUDGET:
FIRST SELECTMEN'S BUDGET PRESENTED AT PUBLIC MEETING AS POWER POINT


 
LWV of Weston "SPEAK UP" WAS THE PLACE TO BE SAT. FEB. 8th - Many questions, including some from a WFFR  founding member.

Read Weston FORUM article here for dates to watch in budget process this year!
  1. The Grand List (real property) has shrunk by more than 12% after reval but before adjustments;
  2. The Board of Education budget automatically went up by @2.6% just by virtue of contractual increases;
  3. Education Budget being presented in Workshops as Superintendent's Budget is reported north of 4% (4.6?);
  4. Town Budget mentioned at Selectmen as as much as a 6% increase (noted by First Selectman) prior to any further action before delivered to the full Board of Selectmen;
  5. What do you think about all of this?  Attend LWV of Weston "Speak Up" on Feb. 8th, 10:30am to 12 noon at the Weston Library and make your questions or comments known!!!

2013:  Charter Revision and the Referendum redux

The Selectmen's Public Hearing on Thursday, October 17, 2013
Ran over the 6:30pm to 7:30pm schedule...and we heard someone say that Monroe always had three votes on their budget referendum ALL THE TIME!

Quorum is 130 Town Meeting voters from now on, according to the mini-Charter Revision summer 2013;  but is it really 130?
The issue of manipulation of the quorum issue was debated...again.  Selectman Muller was astutue in pointing out that politics "plays" games with things like the quorum.



CHARTER REVISION: Up for vote at Nov. 5, 2013 election - not so fast!  How did the Charter Revision Commission manage to miss this deadline?
So what is going on?  Read the Weston FORUM Aug. 14, 2013 here.  According to what we heard, the Charter Revision Commission was ignorant of the Sec'y of the State deadlines for filing.


2013 Referendum voting: 
In light of the cut by the Board of Finance, prior to ATBM, (to a level under which it is illegal to go in CT), it is no surprise that very few Westonites came out to vote.



ATBM APRIL 24, 2013

ATBM OPENS WITH ELECTION OF MODERATOR.  "NO QUOROM" DECLARED AS OF 8PM.
Residents and qualified Town Meeting voters allowed in afterward, but with the understanding that it would only be discussion, no voting on the budget.  In previous ATBMs the Town Attorney was present on the stage.  WFFR went immediately to the mic to ask a question on procedure for determining a quorum since the Charter was silent.  Upon further questioning the Moderator said he would consider the matter as the meeting went along, at which point the First Selectwoman reported that the absent Town Attorney had told her that one quorum call would be sufficient.

MESSAGE TO ALL WESTONITES FROM WFFR:

Save Wednesday, April 24, 8:00 p.m. for our Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), which will be held in the Weston High School Auditorium - At this meeting, Weston citizens have one last chance to weigh in on the Town and the Board of Education budgets. Only reductions can be proposed. 

Last week the Board of Finance approved a school budget of $45,575,418 - $11,744 or 0.03% less than the current year’s budget. By state law, the town is allowed to reduce its school budget since enrollment has declined. The BOS town operating budget shows a 3.52% increase due to workers compensation that came in higher than expected, the capital budget showed a decrease from current year, and debt service shows a 1.43% decrease.

Due to Weston’s Charter Revisions approved in November 2012, requiring a 2% quorum of qualified voters who intend to participate, check-in will begin after the Citizen of the Year Award. Once the budget numbers have been established by the ATBM, voters will then have an opportunity to vote on the budget by machine (referendum) in the Weston High School library.  Please remember to bring your id/driver’s license.  Those unable to vote that evening, absentee ballots can be obtained in town hall beginning Thursday, April 25, during regular business hours (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) 

Regular referendum voting will continue on Thursday, May 2, in the Weston Middle School gymnasium from noon to 8 p.m. At the end of this session, all votes will be tallied and the moderator will read the total results of the referendum. 

Weston’s referendum provides a better means for more Weston taxpayers to vote and be heard.



BOARD OF FINANCE 'DELIBERATION' APRIL 4,  NEXT NIGHT - CUTS SCHOOL BUDGET TO SMALL DECREASE...BELOW LAST YEAR'S NUMBER.


BOARD OF FINANCE PUBLIC HEARING, WFFR COMMENTS, THE NIGHT BEFORE.  ALL OTHER COMMENT (JUST ABOUT) SAID "DON'T CUT..."



BOARD OF EDUCATION APPROVED FY13-14 SUPERINTENDENT'S BUDGET  BELOW, RIGHT - BOARD OF SELECTMEN LOOKS AT SCHOOL BUDGET TONIGHT, 2-26-13



SPEAK UP 2013
WFFR asked about possibilities for change in State Statute re: MBR ("minimum budget requirement") of our Senators present, as well as commented on what happens if Grand List shrinks vis a vis amount capable of supporting school system getting squeezed...

BUDGET SEASON UNDER NEW CHARTER
April 3, 2013 (Wednesday) will be  the Board of Finance Public Hearing on the Town, School and Capital Budgets.  After ATBM there will be a Referedum held according to specific rules in the new Town of Weston Charter.






The LWV of Weston held a forum entitled "Town Affairs Update" on the Saturday after election, Nov. 10, 2012, at Town Hall.  After presentations (description on LWV of Weston website here) the public was invited to ask questions.  So WFFR members did!


Theoretical question and a comment:
What if all 4 school buildings were one structure?  Would this require less management staff?  Town Administrator earns less than the Athletic Director.


TRI-BOARD MEETING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2012:  W.F.F.R. PRESENT...

Green is the Town of Weston's official color.  EXCELLENT STORY ON SCHOOL ENROLLMENT HERE.

Report below courtesy of "About Town" - WFFR members were present.
SPECIAL JOINT BOARD OF SELECTMEN, BOARD OF FINANCE AND BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING AGENDA

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 10, 2012, 7:30pm;  more on Friday belwo.
Report from watching the last half-hour on Channel 79. 
Sound was much better than usual from the Library!!!

The Town TV only began broadcasting after the first half-hour (began @8pm) so guess what?  We don't know much more about enrollment than we did before the meeting!  However, this subject is expected to be discussed at the Board of Education meeting this coming Monday.

Great attendance, if what I saw on Town TV from the Library was any indicator  Weston For Fiscal Responsibility (WFFR) membership was there, but fixed cameras in the rear are not capable of showing audience in this room, and additionally, at the end, when comment was permitted, there was none from anyone present. 

Last night we watch the segment from 8pm to 8:30pm.  This was very enlightening, because we now understand that Hurlbutt and its facilities, with new windows and doors, are up for grabs.  In no uncertain terms, it was said that the Middle School (pool, other special facilities there - the portables will be GONE soon), the "gem" of the system, Weston High School, and the newest, most efficient building, the Intermediate School, are fixed into any strategy for education.  However, depending on the scenario re:  enrollment - we don't know for sure more than 5 years in advance - either of three options appear available:

LOW ENROLLMENT CONTINUES (1800 kids, 2016):  Much of Hurlbutt could be turned over (temporarily) to other Town of Weston uses;
ENROLLMENT STABLIZES BY 2016-17 at a figure over 2000 kids;
ECONOMIC "UPTICK" by 2014-15:  projected enrollment back up to 2500 or more kids.

A Board of Finance member made the best observation - what was the plan for closing or leaving "dormant" a school building, or was there a way to convert on to another use?  The Superintendent responded that it was possible to keep a building not in use in "sleep" mode, but it also seemed, as the First Selectman said, that there are other town needs that might come first.  A member of the Board of Selectmen suggested a community center and was assured that this was not in the forefront of our needs considering that the portable structure now ten years old that houses education/town staff on School Road ("Town Hall Annex") must serve, with excellent Board of Education mainenance, another 5 years still!

PARKING STUDY
Which brought the discussion to the initial request by the Town for more of South House for the seniors.  Use of rooms (such as the mini-gym) by seniors only after school was out for the day, of course.  Same for a North House option for the first floor.  A parking study is no doubt to be added to the Capital Budget if reconfiguration of the Senior Center area comes to pass.  Dr. Palmer noted that the schools could always reconfigure with buildings to make room for classrooms as needed. 

What we did come home in time to see was the tail-end of "discussion of economic indicators."  First Selectman Weinstein had collected assorted sets of numbers which traditionally show where the Town is headed:  We believe we heard that various items have either bottomed or are moving in the positive direction: Foreclosure-related indicators, building permits (for additions, pools, etc.) and home sales ("transfers").  New house construction permits are still almost moribund.  I would argue the these might all be considered signs of recovery, because new house permits would, in this economy of tight money, be expected to lag. 

The Board of Education members on their committee assigned to reach out to the real estate market insisted that there is progress convincing real estate agents that our taxes are not that much higher than in surrounding towns - but we still cannot appeal to those buyers who want proximity to train stations.

Since we had recorded this program, we watched what we had missed Thursday.

----------------------

OUR THOUGHTS AFTER WATCHING...

ADAPTIVE REUSE
For "About Town" this began to make us think that there is a plan afoot, or that there should be one, to bring town and school employees together in a structure attached or within the Town-School campus on the superblock.  This plan should perhaps employ adaptive reuse of historic structures with additions. (In fact, another, long-planned-for wing on the west side of Town Hall - as suggested by a former Selectman, now Board of Education member, was discussed at thhis meeting!)

BACKGROUND
And then the Town Engineer spoke. The Selectmen ordered a town-wide survey to find out how many children were living in Weston, who were under school age...but before this there was the quick addition to Hurlbutt North House...

REMEMBER THE OTHER FOUR ROOMS UNBUILT, ON NORTH HOUSE? 
No one seemed to recall that in the earliest efforts to deal with the boom of children coming - review of the Board of Education numbers were wrong two years in a row, and a Committee was formed to figure out what to do.  This website did not exist then - and in fact, the internet was a techie curiousity.   As best as pre-"About Town" could find in population estimates and projections extant, we should have built at least 6 rooms.  The builders on the committee came up with a creative solution:  add a two-story addition to North House totalling 8 classrooms.  Building foundation was strong enough to support 8 rooms, but the first 4 rooms could be free standing, able to be replicated easily.  They could be added with limited expense.  This was what the Town decided on at the advice of the Board of Education. 
As soon as the 4 rooms were added, they were filled! 

The "Census of Children 1995 and the Census of Children 1997" estimated @800 kids under the age of 5 in Weston.  Later the Town did the same survey in 2000, and confirmed this number - which, as it happens, was proven correct by the enrollment figures to come!

READ RECENT FORUM SUMMARY OF ENROLLMENT STORY HERE.




WFFR members open and close this Selectmen's Public Hearing
Reading another's testimony by request (l), WFFR leadership points out that if nothing else, Town and School have chosen reasonable budgeting without increases (r).  With Referendum built into the Charter, this should continue. 

Meeting Notice! 

BOARD OF SELECTMEN'S PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED NEW CHARTER THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2012 AT 7:30PM, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM

This is the last chance to be heard on the subject of including mandatory referendum in the Town of Weston's budget process, as written in the Town Charter (proposed).  No decision by the Board of Selectmen is expected before June 21st, their regularly scheduled meeting, but your presence on Thursday, June 14th, whether you speak or not, is important.  Naturally, you will want to speak, but it will probably be replicating another's words - so be present if only to sign in to say "ditto!"

The above notice is not officially approved by WFFR







BOARD OF EDUCATION LEADERSHIP PLEASED...
WFFR speaks positively about Board of Education budget at ATBM April 4, 2012.  REFERENDUM April 12, 2012 with absentee ballots available April 5th at Town Hall.


VIDEO OF EDUCATION REFORM FORUM: The following file is in Windows Media Player format.  Windows Media Player will open automatically if you are using Internet Explorer and click on the following link:
 http://www.aboutweston.com/WFFR3-27-12.wmv  (1 hour 49 minutes 37 seconds; 275 Megabytes)


Education reform forum: Westonites discuss changes
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 10:36

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill and subsequent changes were discussed at a public education forum sponsored by Weston For Fiscal Responsibility.

A panel of state legislators and town officials discussed Senate Bill 24, “An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness,” proposed by Gov. Malloy to help fix failing schools throughout the state before a packed crowd at Weston Town Hall on Tuesday, March 27.

Appearing on the panel were Weston’s state Senators Toni Boucher (R-26) and John McKinney (R-28) and state Rep. John Shaban (R-135). They were joined by Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, and Colleen Palmer, Weston’s superintendent of schools. The forum was moderated by former Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss.

The 163-page bill would increase the number of charter schools from 17 to 22, increase funding to the state’s 25 lowest performing schools, and create a school board for technical schools.

Controversial aspects of the bill involve the evaluation, tenure, and dismissal of teachers. The bill would require the development of a statewide model for teacher evaluation, and would change the tenure process, which protects teachers from being fired.

Connecticut teachers are currently entitled to tenure after the successful completion of four years of teaching. The bill would require tenure to be based on performance evaluation, not just length of service.

The bill would also expand the probationary period for teachers from 90 days to one year. The criteria for the dismissal of teachers would be changed from “inefficiency” or “incompetence” to “ineffectiveness” and “unprofessionalism.”

Work in progress

Proving that SB 24 is not a done deal, and is still very much a work in progress, on Monday, March 26, the day before Weston’s education forum, the General Assembly’s Education Committee approved a watered down version of the bill. Many of the key reform components — including the changes to tenure — were changed and relegated to studies.

Following the committee’s vote, Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser, issued a written statement saying the committee’s changes were just “one step in the legislative process.”

“Gov. Malloy has made it clear that he’s determined to begin fixing what’s broken in our public schools, no matter how long it takes. In the coming weeks, members of this administration will continue to work with legislators and other key stakeholders until there is a bill that represents meaningful education reform,” Mr. Occhiogrosso said.

At the forum, Ms. Boucher said 31 other states have already tackled education reform. She compared what was happening in Connecticut to a tennis match going back and forth.

Dr. Palmer said superintendents were grateful education reform was a foremost issue in Connecticut, and she would especially like the hiring process to be changed so it would be easier to hire teachers from other states. “It’s a time of opportunity, but I am watching carefully. It’s important that all our voices are heard,” she said.

Ms. Weinstein commended Weston for its quality school system and praised the governor for tackling education reform. She expressed hope that a non-partisan agreement could be made on the bill.

Comments

Several residents had questions and comments for the panel.

Megan Couch asked if Weston accepted teachers from out of state. Dr. Palmer said as things currently stand, teachers from other states would lose retirement benefits if they transfered to Connecticut, so it is difficult to attract them. She would like to see a change made so it is easier to hire teachers from other states.

Neil Horner asked what the public could do to support the schools and education reform. Dr. Palmer said she would like high-performing districts like Weston to be allowed “more latitude” and flexibility in the teacher evaluation process. She said it would be counter- productive to have guidance counselors spending days filling out evaluation forms on teachers.

Public comments then turned to the issue of tenure. Michael Carter asked what the next steps were for the bill and said he supported the governor’s changes to tenure. He was not pleased the committee had changed it to a mere “study.”

Ms. Boucher said the bill would be going to the appropriations committee then the House and Senate and there would be more negotiations along the way. She said what is eventually passed may not be Senate Bill 24. The bill must pass both houses of the General Assembly by May 8, the end of the legislative session, to become law.

“To me, this is not a good start, it is a good failure,” Mr. Carter said. “Twenty years from now, we will be still talking about this.” He said children suffer when they have bad teachers who are protected by tenure. “Why do we have tenure at all? How do you defend that?” he said.

Mr. McKinney said one of the probems was that the Education Committee sat in a closed room with members of the Connecticut Education Association to negotiate the bill and shut out Republicans as well as members of the governor’s office. He also said there was much more “we need to focus on” than tenure.

Mr. Shaban said teachers he spoke with weren’t concerned about the tenure issue and he wasn’t sure the issue was “a battlefield.”

“I think that you are all fooling yourselves,” said Bob Machson. “The greatest impediment to education is teachers unions.” He asked Dr. Palmer how principals and administrators can evaluate teachers when they are also part of a union.

Dr. Palmer said evaluations have high standards and are not done in just one announced visit a year. She said the goal is to help teachers improve. But after an appropriate time, if there is not improvement, there are hearings and the district will terminate teachers.

Harvey Bellin said Weston taxpayers are “killed” by step increases given to teachers. “You just show up to work and you get an increase every few years. That’s stupid. Where else do you get that?” he said.

Fran Blackman, a former business professional who now teaches seventh grade in the Norwalk public schools, said she was distressed by the vilification of teachers. “You can’t begin to understand what we face every day. I have never worked so hard for so little in my life,” she said.

To see the entire two-hour forum, a video recording of it will be broadcast on Channel 79 at 8 a.m. daily for an unspecified period of time.


WFFR Public Forum speakers and background:   Senator Boucher, Dr. Palmer, Woody Bliss (Moderator)...plus surprise special guests!  These were:  Minority Leader of the Senate Hon. John McKinney, R-28 and Weston's Representative in the House, Hon. John Shaban, R-135.  PLUS, Hon. Gayle Weinstein, First Selectman of Weston.  Thank  you to all those who attended - panel and audience! 


W.F.F.R.  EDUCATION REFORM FORUM - STANDING ROOM ONLY!!!
Video of March 27, 2012 event will appear on the Internet in full by the end of the week.  Picture story with captions below:



THE PANEL AND THE AUDIENCE
Surprise!  Instead of a cozy discussion with our Superintendent Dr. Collene Palmer and Senator Toni Boucher, Ranking Member on the Education Committee, Moderated by Woody Bliss, former First Selectman as well as Chairman of the Panel of Moderators, it was S.R.O.!!!  In came the rest of our hard-working legislative team in Hartford, Minority Leader of the Senate John McKinney and Representative John Shaban. And a very special thanks to First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, whose respect for WFFR and fiscal responsibility in general brought her in at the last!  And bravo to all from Westport, Wilton and Norwalk among other communities represented in the full Town Hall Meeting Room!


LEGISLATIVE DISCUSSION:  How do these things happen?
First off, Senator Boucher (l) went through a direct comparison of exactly what was in the bill voted out of the Education Committee Monday.  How did it differ from what Governor Malloy had proposed?  She answered that question, too!  And what about the method by which the two Co-Chairs. of the Education Committee had closeted themselves with the C.E.A. at that organization's headquarters (the building only slightly smaller than the Capitol and across the street, if memory serves)?  Copies of that JFS'd bill and/or some written material from the Legislature (non-Partisan Office) was available and went like hotcakes!  Leadership of WFFF, center and right.


EDUCATION DISCUSSION:  What do we need to do to turn around CT's public schools - once the best and now sinking lower and lower down the achievement ladder?
Dr.Palmer, with a background in CT educational achievement comparisons from previous professional experience, and on top of very recent evaluation modeling designed to find a way to help all school districts achieve to the highest levels, spells out what has to be done (l).  She analyzed what's good or bad in the Education Reform legislation and the audience hung on her every word!


ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS AND SUPPLYING FACTS ABOUT TEACHER CERTIFICATION IN CT

The panel did its best answering questions, and Woody let the meeting run 20 minutes longer than advertised (considering that there were now five speakers instead of two), and not very many members of the audience, who were not all from Weston, left at the original ending time of 9PM!  Interesting note:  Senator McKinney reported that his brother is a long time teacher in the Bridgeport schools.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

After one particularly pointed exchange, more than one member of the audience appreciated the math teacher's comment - she stood to remark as a former executive now a middle school math teacher in Norwalk, how difficult it is to be a teacher as compared to working in private industry. 





Link to newspaper articles previously posted regarding a WFFR event by About Weston here.