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Norwalk BoE firms up $200M budget

Budget books sit in the Common Council chambers in April.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Board of Education has formulated $1,788,183 in cuts to its initial proposed budget for the next school year.

The 2019-20 budget represents a nearly $8 million increase over 2018-19, and factors in an expected $1.9 million in surplus money left over at the end of this school year. It increases the full-time employee headcount by 52 positions, adds a fourth specials teacher at six elementary schools and funds an additional credit requirement at the high schools, bringing Norwalk in line with a state mandated 25 credits for graduation.

Only one of the Board’s strategic operating plan goals was deferred, the hoped-for change to high school start times, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said at Monday’s Board of Education Finance Committee meeting.

The budget includes expansion of summer school to the sixth grade population, the creation of two Montessori classrooms at Brookside Elementary School and support for magnet programs, he said, mentioning a marine science pathway at Brien McMahon High School and the character program at Tracey Elementary.

There are 23 additional teacher positions correlating to the goals, including band teachers and Montessori teachers, he said. Efforts to bring Special Education programs in-house mean an additional 16 positions and five full-time substitutes are planned, one each at Cranbury and Marvin Elementary Schools, two at Silvermine and one “placeholder for nurse field trips,” according to the PowerPoint presentation.

BoE budget 20190611_17121392

The substitutes will not get benefits and will not be certified teachers, NPS Budget Coordinator Kristen Karzcmit said.

Four custodian positions are expected to be cut due to outplacement of an additional elementary school, the PowerPoint states.

The per pupil allocations have increased, from $8,173 at the high schools in 2018-19 to $8,848; $7,882 to $8,691 at the middle schools; and $7,414 to $8,287 at the elementary schools. Some expenses have been moved to the student-based budgets, such as non-certified substitute teachers, Karzmit said.

The reductions of $1.8 million come from Central Office, including $416,280 from the Talent Office and $197,870 from Curriculum.

The total funding from the City is $198,491,358, with $1,904,942 carryover from an expected surplus factored in to make the total budget $200,396,301. The Board had requested $202,184,484 from the City.

Under state law, the Board can retain a portion of a budget surplus equal to 1% of its budget. Hamilton said the carryover was part of a budget compromise reached with the City. This must be voted on by the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

He anticipates that the surplus will fund the planned $1.9 million carryover, equal to 1%, but couldn’t say how large the surplus will be.

“The fiscal year does not end until June 30th, and it takes some time after that to close the books,” he wrote Tuesday. “We will not know the final results of operation for the Board of Education until we close the books for the year.”

12 comments

Piberman June 12, 2019 at 10:53 am

More school spending may or may not effect student performance as Norwalk matches salaries with surrounding far wealthier towns posting superior student performance. But boosting school spending will surely further depress housing values making the City ever more attractive to renters – now 40% and growing. And make the City even more transient as more homeowners seek to exit. Reportedly Danbury spends 30% less than Norwalk providing similar services. So there’s room for more professional management of Norwalk’s budget. That most Norwalk educators live outside Norwalk speaks volumes.
Norwalk has clearly overreached spending on its schools. That’s what falling housing values and exiting long time homeowners are pointing at.

Is anyone listening ?

Piberman June 12, 2019 at 5:15 pm

Suppose the BOE “froze” the school budget for a year. Encouraging Mayor Rilling to follow suit with the other 1/3rd City Budget. We could then appreciate the consequences of a no tax hike year in terms of home sales and property valuation. Westport is now in its 5th year of no tax hikes. And the results look promising to both homeowners and newcomers. And the City’s reputation.

No one doubts that more school funding have the potential for positive results. But most homeowners do not have kids in school. And with falling property values and rising taxes extending out as far we can see the clear danger is looking our “core constituency” of residents. Those who stay here for decades. Norwalk has long been the County’s most transient City. But with renters now 40% and rising its clearly in danger of becoming primarily a “renters City”. And for well known reasons renters/landlords do not pay their full share of City services. Especially for public education. That reality helped doom every once proud major CT City. Bridgeport, once CT’s finest City is a good example of what happens in a transformation into a renters City.

Steve June 12, 2019 at 7:06 pm

Curious how Pl came to the conclusion that most NORWALK teachers don’t live in norwalk. I can’t say that my kids teachers are representative of the faculty at large but of my sons 8 teachers at least 5 live in Norwalk whole my elementary school daughter has 4 teachers including specials and 3 live in Norwalk. In comparison in the neighboring district of over 100 teachers at the HS approximately 5 live in the town. I hope Westports tax freeze works for them but right now they have some major problems with schools that had to be evacuated for hazardous conditions. Maybe they should freeze norwalks per pupil expenditure at the Westport level?

Non Partisan June 12, 2019 at 7:45 pm

This only proves what the real cost of illegal immigration and a lack of zoning enforcement really costs taxpayers.

Mike Lyons June 13, 2019 at 12:04 am

I think folks need to actually read the article. This budget is not just about matching salaries (we don’t) or about spending a lot of money (we spend less per student than any other area town / city). It’s about actually getting something for that money. In that regard, see:

https://www.thehour.com/opinion/article/The-educational-status-quo-was-not-acceptable-13608207.php

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/02/nps-scores-top-marks-in-nextgen-again/

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/03/nps-touts-accountability-results/

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/06/norwalk-boe-firms-up-200m-budget/

https://www.thehour.com/news/article/Jefferson-New-Columbus-at-Ely-projects-advanced-13972427.php

Non Partisan June 13, 2019 at 7:14 am

@ Mile

I understand that it’s not possible to put an exact figure to this question but about how much money do we spend educating non documented children?

Steve June 13, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Mike Lyon, I loved rereading the February article on the positive changes to the Norwalk Schools. Tired of the nabobs and naysayers who try to undermine any positive results. Our budget isn’t high because there are so many undocumented kids in the school system. Moreover, if there parents are living here, paying rent (a portion of which goes to property tax), sales tax, and own a car that requires property tax payment then they are contributing to the school budget. We aren’t Danbury. We compete for teachers and resources from the Gold Coast. We provide everything from tech programs to IB, if we don’t we’ll see this system quickly devolve into Bridgeport like problems. Non-Partisan and Piberman tout the successes and if enough people do, then housing prices will rise and the other related problems will abate.

Mike Lyons June 13, 2019 at 10:34 pm

Non, we don’t track total costs for non-documented students. In recent years we’ve added about 100 per year from Central America; those students cost us about twice our average cost per student because of the intense interventions they require.

Bryan Meek June 14, 2019 at 6:45 am

A flat budget would result in having to let go approximately 60 staff, the equivalent of an entire elementary school building. You can keep complaining about runaway costs, but the city of Norwalk is powerless. This is all dictated by state regulations that provided binding arbitration on contract matters for public school employees. Of course only public sector employees enjoy these labor laws. The rest of us just get to pay for it.

steve June 14, 2019 at 9:56 am

For all the good that Mike Lyons does too often he puts his foot into it. Go high when other go low…why is it at all relevant that a significant influx of students is from central America except to cast aspersions? My sense is that you are better than that. If the district loses the lawsuit with Morris then there is a pretty strong argument that the BOE members who sent the foolish emails should bear at least some personal liability since their actions were arguably in bad faith and reckless. You have no idea how much I appreciate the hard and uncompensated work of BOE members but if you can’t be sensitive to dynamics of our population, you shouldn’t be there.

Non Partisan June 14, 2019 at 5:06 pm

@ Steve.

Don’t attack those that answer a question

I am fully aware that the board has an obligation to teach all school age children- and is not permitted to identify students as being here legally or undocumented.

The facts are that the Norwalk is a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state and both are controlled by progressive democrats. As a result our student population has grown significantly with students, that in my humble opinion, should not be here in the first place.

The net impacts are many
Increasing school budgets ( increases greater than the inflation rate)
Less $ per pupil
Decreased programs ( middle school sports, and various enrichment programs)

All of the above are now contributing factors in the decline in real estate, and the hemorrhaging of tax paying populations and corporations.

Steve- nothing personal- just facts.

Non Partisan June 15, 2019 at 7:48 am

A few other points

Simply put it takes an economically stratified population to make a city work. Norwalk has a tendency to placate certain groups at the expense of others and has tilted that balance toward the low end. – result- falling property values, higher taxes, and capital flight.

Norwalk has lost that balance through its sanctuary city policies, lack of real zoning enforcement and tax subsidies for even more “affordable” housing” that are diluting growth in the grand list.

The saddest part of it all is when one commenter decided to besmirch the integrity of another- rather than debate the issues at hand. This lack of civil discourse and common decency is leading to the fall of our once great democracy.

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