NORWALK, Conn. – No one’s revealing the Norwalk Board of Education’s intentions regarding its desire for another $1.5 million in funding for 2018-19.
“I don’t know what they’re doing,” Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said Thursday evening in City Hall, when asked about the situation.
Tuesday would be the last opportunity for the Common Council to authorize additional BoE funding by raising its budget cap, Finance Director Bob Barron said in a Thursday email. The Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) would have had to make a request for that to happen, but on Monday declined to go in that direction given that the Board of Education has refused an offer made by Mayor Harry Rilling.
Rilling had gotten the BET’s approval to make an offer to the Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski: use the Board of Education’s $550,000 health insurance reserve and the city would drawdown $950,000 from the fund balance, or Rainy Day Fund, to come up with the $1.5 million the Adamowski is seeking. This would fund elements of the Board’s strategic operating plan.
Adamowski has recommended that the BoE cut kindergarten aides and vacant middle school guidance counselor positions to fund the planned improvements, given that the Council’s $5.5 million increase in the Board’s budget is less than the $9 million requested by the Board. The additional $1.5 million would negate some of the recommended cuts.
BET members said Monday that the door was still open for the “deal” but the BoE would have to ask for a special meeting and agree to use the $550,000.
Asked Thursday via email if the BoE was planning to pursue the offer, or if there would be budget cuts to include cutting kindergarten aides, BoE Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek said he’d already answered the question.
A follow up email asking for the answer drew no response.
Meek’s only answer came in a Monday email:
“We’re not asking for the city to micromanage our fund balances however tiny they are. What we are asking for is a reasonable allocation of the $51000000 that the mayor is hoarding, of which half should already be allocated for Education without us having to beg for it to cover population increases and the contractual increases that are protected by collective bargaining laws.”
Rilling on Tuesday said that Barbis had spoken to BET Chairman Ed Camacho about arranging the required special meeting. This was before Barbis blasted Finance Director Bob Barron in an email to NancyOnNorwalk, a comment that included the sentence, “He clearly does not know what he is talking about when it comes to education.”
Adamowski on Tuesday evening said he understood Barbis and Camacho had had discussions, but, “I am not sure of the details of them.”
Board Chairman Mike Barbis has not answered emails on the topic.
Two Common Council members on Wednesday offered opinions.
“I think Adamowski was very foolish not accepting more money,” Doug Hempstead (R-District D) said. “That’s me.”
“At the present moment, the offer the mayor made with the superintendent includes them contributing $550,000,” Greg Burnett (D-At Large) said. “That’s the present offer, which we would like them to strongly consider. Nothing to my knowledge has changed from that point.”
Norwalk’s charter says the Council could vote on April 17 to raise the budget cap; Barron called that “technically the last day” but “from a practical standpoint, since an increase to the cap requires affirmative votes from 2/3rds of the Common Council members, it’s commonly thought that an approval requiring a super-majority can only be achieved at a regular meeting and the only remaining regular meeting before the deadline is April 10, 2018.”
Camacho has already “signed the letter” for the recommended 2018-19 operating budget, Burnett said, suggesting that the only route left for the BoE is a special appropriation.
Barron said a special appropriation would also require a two-thirds Council vote and referred NancyOnNorwalk to a charter passage, which mentioned “the first Monday in May” as the deadline for such a move.