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Approved city budget will require tough choices for NPS

This week, the Common Council voted 10-5 to approve a budget cap for the 2021-22 city-wide budget that was $1 million less than the budget recommended by the City of Norwalk’s chief financial officer. The school budget recommended by the City was already $5 million less than the Board of Education requested.

We are extremely disappointed in this decision, which will significantly impact school funding for next year. It does clearly send a signal to the residents of Norwalk.NPS employees know as well as anyone that Covid has created many struggles this year. Everyone in our school system has been working around the clock since March 13 to keep children in school, teach students remotely, ensure families have access to meals, conduct contact tracing, clean and sanitize buildings, support mental health needs, and so much more.  We are grateful for their tireless work and dedication to children.

However, with Tuesday’s vote, we will now need to move ahead to start making the tough choices that this budget will require.

As you know, the district’s recommended operating budget request outlined a modest 4.6% increase. Of that, 2.2% is required to cover the rise in health insurance costs for teachers, paraeducators, custodians, nurses and other critical staff, while 2.7% was to staff priority needs and meet contractual obligations to those same employees. The approved budget essentially keeps the school budget flat for the next year, despite our obligation to meet these increases.

Funding under the CARES Act will be used to help us address Covid impacts. However, it cannot legally be used to replace local funds. As a result, we will need to look closely at services and programs throughout the district to balance our budget. It would not be fiscally responsible to enter the school year counting on additional, unidentified state or federal funding, or to plan on a special appropriation request midway through the year.

NPS and the Board of Ed are grateful to the community for the investment made in our students and schools over the past several years. Unfortunately, that investment in school operating and capital funding came only after years of under-funding, resulting in out-of-date instructional approaches, over-crowded schools and deferred maintenance.

Our families, staff and community partners are rightfully proud of the progress our schools have made in becoming the number one city school district in the state. Maintaining a high quality school system, one that keeps and attracts residents and businesses, requires an ongoing commitment by the community. Investing in education can never be a “one and done.”

Our thanks to everyone who has advocated for appropriate levels of school funding in Norwalk.

2 comments

John O'Neill February 25, 2021 at 8:20 pm

Let me see if I understand this. This 4.6% INCREASE is not enough? Most taxpayers could only WISH for a 4.6% NET wage boost. AFTER receiving significant raises over the past few years this is not enough? You may want to direct your concerns to the scam artists who claimed we’d save money on healthcare costs. If I’m not mistaken that would begin with our President in 2010. You know the guy who promised immigration reform as his #1 priority while running for President in 2008. Next in line for your attention should be the state group who suckered Norwalk into believing all those projected insurance savings were going to actually happen..Haven’t you followed Hartford bait and switch over the past 100 or so years. Maybe our Senator can help you with that. If you don’t know Bob he’s the guy that invented the scam about a free new High School. If anyone thinks that High School will not cost us millions more than we are projecting, I have a health insurance policy to sell you.
Let’s get some Board of Ed leaders with at least some college credits in Business. This is ridiculous. Is that too much to ask? As the Democrats seem to control things these days, and as Ed Camacho (who has done a terrific job of building their strength – kudos Ed) is the decision maker for the Dems I am begging him to do a better job vetting future Board of Ed candidates. If not, I hope voters wake from their slumber and shift allegiances. If Dems don’t push candidates with Business credentials of any kind the GOP need to get more savvy. We’re tired of the whining.

Nancy Guenther Chapman February 26, 2021 at 12:01 am

John, this appropriations cap does not provide NPS with a 4.6% increase, as is. The BET has yet to scrutinize city-side budgets but if they all remain without change, NPS would get a 2% increase. Barring a possible influx of new federal stimulus funds, depending on the strings attached.
NPS says the 4.6% increase will mostly cover health insurance cost increases ($4 million) and contractual obligations.

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