Norwalk parents make a dent, but Council sticks to $336M budget cap

SpEd Partners Co-Chairman Eric Neiderer speaks to the Common Council on Tuesday, one of his children by his side. “We are at a unique point in Norwalk,” he said.

Norwalk parents crowd City Hall’s Council chambers Tuesday.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Common Council members held firm Tuesday, approving last weeks’ proposed budget cap even if it inspired two hours of passionate opposition in the overflowing Council Chambers.

New to the 2018-19 operating budget discussion was an additional drawdown from the “Rainy Day Fund,” $1.2 million to fund a third year of Special Education reform efforts.

While Mayor Harry Rilling characterized the $336.2 million appropriations cap as a continued investment in Norwalk Public Schools and its strategic plan, Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis said, “They want to stick to this? They might not like the consequences.”

Board members and their supporters asked for $1.5 million more than the Council had decided upon last week, calling that a compromise offered by the Board of Education. Instead, Rilling added up the funding for the schools to declare that the 3.7 percent recommended BOE increase is quadruple the average increase for the last several years.

Add the $5.5 million allowed for by the Council to $1.1 million from the Board of Education’s insurance reserves and $383,000 in increased state Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funding next year, and the Board has 74 percent of its requested budget increase, $8.2 million more than 2017-18, he said.

However, after a long recess, Rilling announced that after “robust and healthy discussions” with Council members, he would work with Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski “to see how we can reconcile some of the difference between where we are now and where we need to be.”

“Make no mistake about it, the Common Council members did hear you tonight and we have committed to trying to work together to try to make that happen,” Rilling said to the audience.

The vote to pass a $336,168,940, which would mean an average mill rate increase of 3.7 percent, was unanimous.

People wait outside the Common Council chambers Tuesday in City Hall.

Before the meeting began, people jammed the Council Chambers hallways and sat on the steps, and others could not get in. Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto ordered people out of the room, declaring it a fire hazard.

Concert Hall was being used for another event, Rilling explained to angry parents requesting a change of venue.

Barbis spoke first, declaring, “We are not a foreign entity. We are not a rival to the city. We are part of the city. This is not North Korea versus South Korea.”

“I would love to know why we are being punished by the city when we are part of the city,” he said. “Why are we being attacked for trying to build the best school system possible for Norwalk?”

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis makes a plea for a compromise budget as Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto looks on, Tuesday in City Hall.

Norwalk Public Schools needs a $7 million increase to continue making progress via its strategic operating plan, he said, continuing to be the first to urge further use of the Rainy Day Fund, officially called the fund balance, and implying that the city-side elected officials were not living up to their campaign promises to support education.

Adamowski said the schools are in a “distressing position” with the recommended funding, and pointed out that Stamford spends $1,600 more per student but Norwalk just scored better than Stamford in the state assessment tests.

The cavalcade of statistics continued, with NPS Budget Coordinator Kristen Karzcmit asserting that Norwalk has gotten a 26 percent return on its academic investment, while other school systems in its District Reference Group (DRG) saw a negative return, and Columbus Magnet parent Adam Blank doing a real estate analysis based on research through Zillow and knowledge of local mill rates.

Adam Blank’s analysis.

“Norwalk is darn near the lowest tax burden per family of any of the towns in Fairfield County, in fact, we are about $3,500 less in taxes per single family house than the rest of the Fairfield County,” Blank said. “If you actually compare us to the towns that abut us… our taxes are about half of what they pay.”

“Nobody is leaving Norwalk to go to another town in Fairfield County to go to another town in Fairfield County where property taxes are lower, because they are not (lower),” Blank said. “I think we can certainly withstand to continue to increase the mill rate to fund the ‘Board of Ed.’”

Board of Education Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek attacks assertions that the “Rainy Day Fund” has to be protected for the sake of the city’s credit rating.

BoE Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek later spoke with anger, producing a news article quoting Finance Director Bob Barron last fall as saying the city could withstand a $5.7 million hit to its Rainy Day Fund to deal with state budget cuts.

“Let me get this straight: we can give $5.7 million to Dan Malloy but we don’t give a cent to the schools? C’mon, really?” Meek said.

Barron’s insistence on protecting the city’s Triple A bond rating is an excuse and a smoke screen, he said, attacking Barron’s 13.6 figure as the percentage of the fund balance and saying it’s really 15 percent of the operating expenses.

“He is adding in $40 million of teacher retirement payments that never hit our checking account,” Meek said. “It’s a pro forma number, it’s required by GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) but that money never comes in or goes out of the city. So that is a smoke screen.”

Parents made emotional appeals, returning over and over to the Next Generation Accountability ratings that were just released by Connecticut.

“With all these improvements, in turn, we see Norwalk becoming a better community to live in, to work in, to own property in and to be a part of,” Karine Sweitzer said. “How can we stop now? In our final year stretch to implement the strategic plan set forth by Dr. Adamowski, it would be beyond catastrophic to halt now. it would destroy the morale of the education community and the parents and the children who are in it.”

“We have worked so hard, our kids have been working so hard,” Tiffany Kiriakidis said. “We have managed to close our gaps. We have great momentum, our kids are ready and excited to go to school. They feel good, they feel proud, they feel exited. We have to keep this going… please take our money from the Rainy Day Fund and put it toward our children.”

“We feel abandoned by our partners on the council. The budget recommendation will arrest all the progress in our schools,” Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) President Michael Byrne said.

Several children spoke, too.

Emma Aponte speaks to the Common Council.

“I would have had more problems without special education,” said Emma Aponte, a fifth grader. “But because of special education … I even got recommended for the academically talented program next year.”

Other Board of Education members were among the last speakers.

“These improvements achieved in such a short time have been convinced me that my dream of excellent schools on a lean budget can be a reality for Norwalk,” Barbara Meyer Mitchell said. “We have a finite period of time to take advantage of Dr. Adamowski’s experience and leadership.”

“Slowing down the implementation of these much-needed reforms is the equivalent of denying an entire cohort of students the education they need to compete in our ever more complex and competitive world,” Bruce Kimmel said.

Rilling closed the public comment session by reading what he said was a statement from the Council.

“Norwalk needs and deserves a top tier school system,” he said, pointing out that last year the BoE received a $7.9 million increase and a commitment of $150 million over five years to build two new schools and renovate two schools.

“We intend to continue that commitment this year,” Rilling said. “We must do so in the context, obviously, of uncertain state funding, a looming state deficit, a reval on the horizon and new federal tax law, which limits deductions for State and Local Taxes. These challenges are of real and great concern to our citizens and elected  officials. It’s not easy to put together a budget and having to consider not only making sure that we fund our ‘Board of Ed’ but also that we don’t overtax the people who are living on a fixed income.”

“The city-side of the budget, after contractual mandates, includes a .9 percent increase, less than 1 percent funding for new initiatives including hiring additional staff to enable better Zoning compliance and replacing outdating and expired police equipment,” Rilling said. “The recommended increase on the city-side is so low because I have instructed my staff that the city-side needs to wait. We need to take our next four to five years to focus on improving our schools.”

He called a recess.

Barbis, waiting for the meeting to start, produced a Norwalk Plus magazine article from before last fall’s election, with Rilling listing his previous support for Norwalk Public Schools and promising to continue.

If the city hadn’t come up with $1.2 million from the Rainy Day Fund to fund Special Education reforms, he would have taken the city to court, he said.

“We are asking for $1.5 million,” Barbis said. “We are not asking for the full $9.9 million. They want to stick to this, they might not like the consequences. We are going to stick to our strategic operating plan. We are going to cobble the money together, to make sure that maybe not all of it, but much of it gets implemented in 18-19. So we’re going to have to cut some costs.”

What costs?

“There is nothing in the strategic operating plan that talks about classroom size in elementary or middle school,” Barbis said. “It won’t be easy but we can do it. Is it really worth all that turmoil when they could pull $1.5 million out of the Rainy Day Fund? I hope it is to them.”


Sue Haynie February 28, 2018 at 6:54 am

No easy answers here. Norwalk needs to beg, borrow and steal outside sources of funding.

Although I have much respect for Adam Blank, an argument based on average home values distorts the fact that the property taxes on a $396,000 home (Norwalk’s average) in Darien would be $4,438+/-, Westport $4,878+/-, Greenwich $3,050+/-, compared to Norwalk’s tax burden of $7,207.

Tony P February 28, 2018 at 7:03 am

Political theater at its best – amazed at how many people are so willing to increase their property tax burden. What about the taxpayers who don’t use the schools? How about using the RDF for paving some more roads, fixing some more sidewalks – stuff that everyone uses? And please spare me the adage that good schools benefit everyone – this superintendent and BOE have burned up the check book, are melting down the credit card with poorly planned school construction, and now they want more. Basically adults throwing a temper tantrum, complete with threats from Barbis.

Adam Blank February 28, 2018 at 7:40 am

Sue – I didn’t hide that in my presentation, our mill rate is just slightly under the average, but you can’t even buy a vacant lot in the towns that sorround us for $396k. My point was simply that the average family in Norwalk pays far less in property taxes than does the average family in other towns.

Education101 February 28, 2018 at 7:43 am

This is leadership! Thank you Mayor Rilling. Why is more funding always the elixir to the BOE’s operating plan? With many anticipating severe grand list declines in the years to come, wouldn’t it be prudent for the BOE budget’s to reflect the new economic realities and present the taxpayers with alternate funding scenarios?

Wendy February 28, 2018 at 7:44 am

Great Story! Very comprehensive. Truly informs people. I will certainly donate on Giving Day, given the quality of this journalism.

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 28, 2018 at 7:53 am

Leadership is NOT what we saw last night from our BOE and our Mayor. The Mayor in facf sits on the BOE. He is part of that team by charter. My District B reps, who always win convincingly, were no snows. Travis Simms and Faye Bowman, where were you?

Mike Barbis has the math and the logic right. Mario Coppola told Harry Rilling how much they had to approve to avoid legal action. Just as I’m sure Mayor Rilling was told in 2014 to ignore the Firetree letter because it’s cheaper to be sued by Norwalk residents than by a federal contractor with deep pockets.

How do parents feel having made meticulous preparations only have wasted them on people whose minds were made up before we arrived.

Education101 February 28, 2018 at 7:56 am

and wrong . . we can’t afford to simply keep increasing the mill rates as reflected in the decade long property stagnation and continued property tax squeeze. With Connecticut’s property taxes now one of the highest in the nation, presenting an incoherent argument that the city can afford to keep raising taxes is mind numbing and a Bridgeport at best argument.

Mike Barbis February 28, 2018 at 7:58 am

Education 101: you seem to be an expert on many things. What is your prediction on the new Grand List for 2018? You think it is going to decline? You obviously do not know anything about real estate values. The 2018 GL is going to show great growth over 2013 — just based on the trends in property values (single family, condos and commercial) over the last five years.

Education101 February 28, 2018 at 7:59 am

finally . . . if parents are so passionate about more school funding, why not have them share the burden and impose more fees to share in the sacrifice?

Bryan Meek February 28, 2018 at 8:09 am

Again, the mayor was willing to give $5.7 million of our rainy day fund to cover the recklessness of our Governor. And he’s willing to give ZERO of it for Education. He doesn’t need to raise taxes either. He’s hoarding OUR money for his own interests. He will own every last cut and layoff that are coming swiftly. And before someone suggests $1.2 million was let go for SPED. That money was agreed to over 2 years ago and the mayor tried to renege on it, but stopped short after learning he would be in violation of the legal agreement. This is a sad day for Norwalk, folks.


Education 101, {…} You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and add positively nothing to the conversation.

Edited to remove an insult, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Olga Zargos-Traub February 28, 2018 at 8:26 am

Its is not the quality of our schools that will drive out familtiles, its is the facf that the interesrts of our elected officials do not allign with the values of families. We should not have to beg to havs our own tax dollars be allocated for the continued improvement and progress of our public schools,. Robust and successful schools in my opinion is one the most important and relevant factors that folks look at when making the decision to move in and out of this cityy.

Al Bore February 28, 2018 at 8:26 am

Adam that is because the average property in Norwalk is worth far less the the average property in surrounding towns. That is like saying I pay less sales tax on a piece of candy than on a new car, of course it’s worth less. No one that I know moves to Norwalk for the school system, however I know many that move away because of the school system. I just don’t see our school system getting better year after year I see our house pricing remain stagnant and our taxes go up. I see the developers getting the green light to overbuild the city which brings up the cost to the taxpayers that own houses while the developers are given tax breaks to overbuild the city that is already bursting at the seams. Over building cost money does anyone in city hall get it? Answer NO they do not nor do they care.

Rem February 28, 2018 at 8:27 am

Have to agree with Education 101 and Mayor Rilling that throwing more money to fix a problem never ends well. The problem with using the Rainy Day Fund to fund budgets is that there would be a desire to keep using it until it is depleted; and then what? Increase mill rate 10 or 20 percent to keep the spend free budget intact? RDF is best used for one-off capital improvements.

Also, some adults here seem to be forgetting that children are highly adaptable and resilient, much more than we are because their brains are wired differently at that age. So it’s not the end of the world, really. Those with special needs would benefit most from personal parental attention which is much more than the average teacher can provide in a classroom setting. Sorry to be so… Brusque, but, even tragically underfunded school systems in other parts of the country (world) turn out students who do well for themselves.

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 28, 2018 at 9:13 am

@Rem, you’re assuming that the BOE budget is the 800 lb gorilla and the rest of the city is run like a trim ship. Nothing could be further from the truth. For one, the BOE adopted a Strategic Operating Plan. Part of this plan is to reduce/eliminate study halls at the high schools. That proposition requires hiring additional staff. I’m all for cost savings achieved through better collective bargaining agreements. I have known teachers who offered to teach classes where there was no staff available and they had the free period, but the union told them they couldn’t because they’d make the union look bad. Collective bargaining is a huge factor in determining an Ed budget. Half of the BOE ask for this year just satisfies “contractual obligations”—COL pay raises, etc. That’s 5.5 million dollars just to stay in the same place. Norwalk is already doing more with less in the public schools. Doug Hempstead is correct that Hartford lets Norwalk down time and again with ECS funding linked to land values rather than relative student need (nearly half our 11,000+ students have some need as evidenced by the Free and Reduced Lunch and ELL figures).

We are electing the wrong people to serve at the pleasure of the people. It’s actualy worse than that. We’re not even showing up to vote,

The cap budget for 2018-19 includes $4,000,000 in infrastructure improvements necessitated by the Waypointe development—expenses that should have fallen to the developer. This budget also includes over $9,000,000 in waste water treatment upgrades necessitated by—guess what—all the NEW APARTMENTS. GGP benefitted from an Enterprise Zone that Spinnaker/Clay Fowler begged for before he flipped that property for 30 million to the mall folks.

I hope that the people who actually run the city are waking up and paying attention. We need to demand more of the people who THINK they run the city. We might start by reminding them of who’s in charge. We’re not drawing down the RDF to pay for schools. We’re drawing down the RDF to pay for Harry’s playground at City Hall, for Harry’s pension, for Harry’s communications person, and for Harry’s donors, who all somehow got their applications through Harry’s land use commissions. Is this sinking in yet?

Sue Haynie February 28, 2018 at 9:31 am

@Adam Blank, I didn’t assume you were hiding it, I just have a different statistically take on your data; ‘averages’ hide a lot of truths.

One could argue that $396,000 couldn’t buy a vacant lot in Rowayton or many parts of Cranbury, Silvermine, and West Norwalk. SALT is hitting many of these property owners hard.

When Norwalk projects an estimated $$ of tax increases based on ‘average values’of an area, I always multiply by 4.

Concerned February 28, 2018 at 9:50 am

“My point was simply that the average family in Norwalk pays far less in property taxes than does the average family in other towns.”

And we are getting what we are paying for. Run down roads, schools that rely on the generosity of PTO/PTA money, no family friendly centers, revolving door of superintendents, I could go on. There is nothing to entice any family to move to Norwalk. You can’t raise taxes and expect people to come with empty promises.

This is a real crap situation and it’s clear that Norwalk is broken.

Eleanor Lx. February 28, 2018 at 10:21 am

As a distressed departing homeowner here due to higher taxes, I am at a loss. If an underfunded ECS formula and overall school funding challenges where embedded in the job description for superintendent, why is more funding and more distress on the homeowner always presented as a solution. What ever happened to non-monetary qualitative improvements in the school system?

Beaches February 28, 2018 at 10:37 am

I am tired of paying higher taxes every year for the BOE. Why doesn’t someone look at the salaries and number of employees in the HR Dept. Or the number of retirees we hire back in Finance and HR to help get the work done that only one employee did. I am an Senior and I am moving out of this city this year. I totally agree with Mayor Rilling. Enough is Enough!

Michael McGuire February 28, 2018 at 10:41 am

Irrespective of what side you are on in the above debate it is time to focus on growing the Grand List.

Al Bore February 28, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Grow the grand list with something other than apartment buildings and developer tax breaks. Revamp our zoning so we have smart building controlled by the city with the home owning taxpayers having input. Now we let the developers overbuild our city and then go home, which their home most often is not Norwalk. Over development cost money in many ways schools, police, fire, and infrastructure now and in the future. Let’s for once do things smart bring in small businesses back to Norwalk that employ people and thrive making the area they are in thrive. No more big box stores and certainly NO MORE APARTMENT BUILDINGS please try to think before you build, Norwalk needs to thrive however we are sinking. Great job city hall keeping our property values stagnant at best for over a decade! We need a professional city manager because this just ain’t working folks. Norwalk used to be a great place with generations of homeowners, small businesses, and a beautiful coast now thanks to city hall we only have the coast left and they will screw that up in time I’m sure. Work to make Norwalk a safe place to live with great quality schools, thriving businesses, open space, quality of life, and a place that you can move around in. A place where people want to buy a house to live not rent until they find somewhere other than Norwalk they want to be. Now we are becoming a over crowded with lot’s of traffic failing big city.

Patrick Cooper February 28, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Norwalk – I have some bad news for you. You’re insane. Um, it gets worse. Your delusional too. But there is hope.

Insanity is doing the same thing that delivers negative results over and over, again and again, expecting different results. A parent would seriously question a child who repeatedly hit their hand with a hammer – why are you continuing to do this? I watched this year’s parade of parents, children, BOE members, the Superintendent of Schools, multiple town employee’s, professionals, and taxpayer advocates stand for their allotted three minutes to plead before the mayor and common council. Impassioned presentations and solid arguments – a virtual Norwalk stream of consciousness presented to our elected representatives. The final budget decision, even Harry’s little speech – was settled long before a single soul entered the room.

Perhaps delusional is thinking – well this is going to change – they have to hear us (inner voice – they think like me – hey I voted for them). You aimed at their hearts, and their compassion – and found those targets elusive or invisible. Further – delusional is thinking this is about the children, or even the taxpayers. It’s not. What you saw was 1 party politics. Pure. Obvious.

Mr. Blank – perhaps you hit your head on the way into the room – but your math is absurd. Unless definable as wealthy – every person & household is striving for income, savings, and return on investment. Norwalk housing values – the principle holding of the majority of residents – have fallen over the past decade. Not our neighbors – Norwalk. If it is only down $30,000 on average – that’s still a billion in valuation. So – present and past management have LOST our “Norwalk Company” a billion dollars – while surrounding municipalities have increased – and you say we are not taxed enough? VALUATION – please.

That time last night needed to be more left-brain argument. The principle reason to fund the schools is – IT IS THE BEST possible ROI for our tax dollars relative to any other choice our management team – our council – has before us. The BOE & Superintendent have a Strategic Operating Plan. They are following it. They are getting demonstrable results. The city has no current strategic plan – certainly nothing that explains any of the hodge-podge, spot development occurring. There is no vision – we hire a dubious firm Stantac to do that. And – pay attention – there are no results – thus a .5% growth in the grand list. The utter failure on offense (business development) creates political pressure on the mayor – so he plays politics and puts our BOE on defense. When is it time to question every single line item expenditure at the mayor’s pen-tip?

Which brings us finally to hope. We can always hope, and as Andy Dufresne told Red in Shawshank Redemption – “hope is a good thing”. Sadly – hope is not a strategy. Norwalk needs a new strategy, because if we keep losing a billion dollars in housing value, short fund our schools, develop exclusively for the benefit of the campaign donating developers, flat line the grand list, and elect the same crony long-time good-guy officials – we are insane. If we think it’s simply going to get better by itself – we are delusional. And like Andy, if we don’t start living and coming up with a strategy – we may find ourselves having to swim through a mile of ….. just to escape this place.

Piberman February 28, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Norwalk’s “bright future” doesn’t include its homeowners. Median home values have declined from $485k to $415k between 2010 and 2016 (US Census Quck Facts). But Norwalk’s future does include continuing to pay our school teaches and administrators salaries competitive with our surrounding wealthy towns – among the wealthiest in America. A nice touch in a City with near 10% poverty rate.

The great battle between parents and homeowners (who finance the schools) has been lost. So we know our future. Underperforming schools, punitive propoerty taxes, well paid City employees and continued exodus of long time homeowners. Mayor Rilling says we’re “CT’s Greatest City”. Who would deny ?

Lisa Brinton Thomson February 28, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Mike McGuire – the mayor campaigned on city growth and the BOE. So far, he’s failing at both.

 There is no city wide plan. Development is producing traffic and congestion and coming up short on the grand list. The BOE (from which he now disassociates) is linked to grand list growth. They have a strategic plan and are addressing the achievement gap. Norwalk was the highest performing school district in its DRG and is closing in on Wilton’s state accountability scores – narrowing to 3.6%.

It’s a tough call with the budget, but where’s the leadership? Per the charter, the mayor IS a member of the BOE. With education results trending better than the city’s grand list, perhaps he would consider touting the BOEs successes to corporate foundations instead of giving away tax credits to developers? Norwalk is a diverse, middle class city, with potential for national recognition (which helps the grand list.) The mayor needs to take responsibility for advancing education revenues and the BOEs reputation. It’s what mayors of other great cities do – and not just at election time!

Education101 February 28, 2018 at 12:54 pm

@Michael Barbis. Please savor that 2013 / 2018 Grand List comparison because it will be a one off. I’m not sure where your optimism is coming from. SALT and Hartford’s fiscal woes will have devastating impacts and depress real estate values for years to come as funding from the state level dries up and more burden is passed to the homeowner. This is just the tip of the [email protected]#t iceberg so hold on to your belt and cross a higher funding ECS formual off the wish list.

Education101 February 28, 2018 at 1:10 pm

@Meek. Please stop with the Rainy Day Fund as it appears to be a lost cause. Also, realize that tapping these funds will only increase the baseline for future BOE spending and continue the unsustainable budgetary path the BOE is on (not the intended purpose of the reserves). Also, probably a good idea to throttle back the insults and intimidation and start facing the new economic realities and huddle with your dream team to present alternate funding scenarios to the taxpayer.

Bryan Meek February 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm

@Education101. You may be a lost cause, but the parents are aware of the Mayor’s tricks and hoarding of our cash. Eventually the taxpayers will get their money when we elect a Mayor who doesn’t take orders from Hartford. Either it be in school or city wide improvements or a tax refund.

And you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when it comes to SALT or reval {…}
Edited to remove an insult, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Bob Welsh February 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm


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Paul Lanning February 28, 2018 at 6:25 pm

To those residents who are praising the mayor/CC and damning the BOE, Think Again.

$30 million in reduced assessments, mostly commercial properties

Millions more in infrastructure costs to support the new apartments

Minimal revenue from all the new buildings, due to tax breaks given to the developers.

Our money is being mis-spent, and not by the BOE.

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 28, 2018 at 9:41 pm

@Education101, we need more anger. Much more anger. Peter Finch in Network level anger. Bryan Meek channeled his anger into a performance last night worthy of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. There were plenty of facts to back up his challenge to the Finance Director and his boss.

Last night parents were energized, elequont and armed to the teeth with facts and figures. Passion and reason were married in speaker after speaker. The NPS present a greater ROI than any other dollar spent in this City.

Today we’ve seen the usual circling of the wagons. Many parents who last night were outspoken and passionate supporters of the schools, their goals and the spending needed to achieve them, today are encouraged to go back to arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The idea that we have to play nice to get restoration is vile, patronizing and insulting. Tolerance of the status quo {…} is exactly what the people stealing and hoarding our tax dollars want us to do. Maybe if we play nice and look the other way, we’ll get a new sidewalk here and there, one less study hall, a kindergarten aide. But before that happens, The BET—hand picked by Mayor Rilling and unsurprisingly approved by the CC—will meet and start threatening to cut babies in half (figuratively speaking). We have land use appointees who have admitted ON THIS PAGE that Mayor Rilling makes important decisions “behind the scenes”. Why is anyone okay with this? Homebuyers may like Norwalk for the physical beauty and the diversity, but they pick someplace else because of the crony politics.
Edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives without proof, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Piberman March 1, 2018 at 10:45 am

Why be surprised the City budget is increasing while housing values are noticeably decreasing ? None of the Mayoral candidates promised lower taxes or even holding the line. None of the candidates for Mayor complained the BOE is matching high salaries with our wealthy surrounding towns but not getting the results with an underperforming school system.

Without much more capable City officials having serious backgrounds we all know Norwalk’s future – a renters City moving to Bridgeport. City Hall sees Norwalk as “CT’s Greatest City”. So it must be true.

Nancy Chapman March 1, 2018 at 6:06 pm

In the interest of having the discussion stick to policy, not personalities, we have removed two comments. The comments policy asks that you not insult or harass fellow commenters. Thank you.

Education101 March 2, 2018 at 10:22 am

@Donna. Ceteris paribus (i.e, assuming no extra $$ out of the RDF), and for the record, how much does the BOE think a reasonable mill rate increase annualized is reasonable for taxpayers to absorb . . . 2%, 3%, 5%, 6% to fund their operating plan? Unfortunately, this is when real world vs theoretical assumptions in Grand List pipe dreams have to meet. Macro factors may deem overwhelming for any local elected leaders to control and preclude materially growth rates during the state’s economic malaise. This is why I believe the mayor is spot on here.

Bryan Meek March 2, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Try as they might, no one can spin the facts away. The mayor’s recommended budget started with 5% for the city, 0% for the school system, and one time financial gimmicks and draw downs of $9 million to make it look like the city side is getting less than 1%, then creating the illusion that the entire increase is because of the school system, when taxes didn’t need to be raised at all. The RDF still sits $15 million higher than Stamford who still has AAA and 50% more people. In 2001, 10% of the city’s budget was from state grants. Next year it will be 5%, in large part because the city has been hoarding cash by short changing the growth of the school system. Had the city held responsible levels of reserves, the state would have more pressure to maintain grants commensurate with the city’s needs. Instead, they are fleecing us and with a willing mayor to boot.


Donna Smirniotopoulos March 2, 2018 at 4:59 pm

@Education101, I reject the idea that the BOE is the enemy of the taxpayer on its face. So your question cannot be answered. The BOE does not set the mill rate. The BET does. The mayor appoints the BET. The Finance Director is also the mayor’s guy. This question would be better put to the mayor than the BOE.

The BOE might focus, however, on better collective bargaining strategies so we’re not spending 5.5 million dollars in contractual obligations just to stay in place.

In 2016 the Superintendent recommended, inter allia, the implementation of the ELLI preschool program to improve kindergarten readiness, over the objections of a former BOE member who {…} spouse was employed there as a preschool teacher{…}. Examples like this lend weight to your point that the BOE could should more to rein in labor costs that increase while not advancing the SOP. Spouses of NFT members lobbying the BOE under some other supposedly neutral umbrella seems to be a perennial problem.
Edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives without proof, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Education101 March 2, 2018 at 6:21 pm


From the link you provided,

” Malloy’s revised resource allocation plan reduces statutory grant funding to Norwalk by $5,721,169 from what the city received in FY 2016-2017.”

Isn’t grant funding also contingent on other factors (credit rating, property values/grand list . . etc )? Hypothetically, if the RDF was cut in half and passed on to the BOE, could the city then expect grant funding to be restored to 2016 – 2017 levels given the financial challenges in Hartford? I would think that someone in the finance dept should have more granular projections on this relationship but doubtful that under any scenario, the days of equitable grant funding could be restored. Further, should the day arrive when teacher pensions would be shared on the local level, what resources would be at the disposal of the city to cushion this hit?

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