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Dachowitz should be booted from Norwalk budget discussions

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This publication knows us as NPS parents fiercely supportive of our public schools, yet, we also try to tackle these issues with a practical mindset. It goes without saying that every negotiation has its posturing, its shots across the bow, its hopes and dreams, and ultimately imperfect end result. No one side is without imperfections or absolved from critique. But, when the true colors of one side’s representatives cauterize their astonishing viewpoints and show them to the community, it needs to be addressed.

While we recognize this administration has gone to great lengths on occasion to repair NPS lapses from the past, the rhetoric coming out of representatives of the City of late has consistently been counter to the spirit of these commitments. A spirit that should be collaborative, transparent, and working in good faith together to serve its community. And while we know no one side is without flaws, and we may disagree with how the budget sessions have shaken out the last few years, it’s only this year that the City’s position has become abundantly more clear: the City is willing to meet only the very basic needs of its youngest citizens – citizens across different backgrounds, races, and creeds. Any more than the bare minimum, if that, is unaffordable excess characterized by “diminishing returns” and a failed “return on investment.” As the City CFO Henry Dachowitz claims, our students are simply an investment gone wrong, and no sense in putting good money after bad. His language treats kids and teachers as if their success can be measured in dollars and cents when in reality NPS efforts won’t be measurable for years to come.

Last year, both the City of Norwalk and Norwalk Public schools received significant federal relief funds to help address the challenges brought forth by COVID. The City received approximately $45 million and NPS received approximately $48 million. The City was fortunate and able to allocate how and where those funds were spent. It used these funds for projects designed to improve economic and business development, help avoid flooding and drainage issues, etc. These are all good things. Norwalk Public Schools, on the other hand, did not have the same level of freedom in determining how and where its federal funds could best be used to supplant COVID-related needs. Instead, NPS was forced to use these federal dollars to address inadequate local funding and support basic operating expenses, including summer school, social workers, school counselors, etc. Expenses relevant to any year, global pandemic or otherwise.

This week, as we navigate a new budget cycle and increasing needs with dwindling federal funds, instead of acknowledging the sacrifice that our schools and our children have made and continue to make as a result of this reliance on COVID relief funds, Mr. Dachowitz instead suggested that our children weren’t worth investing in, because the return on the investment in them is poor. The justification for this opinion: our children perform below grade level and we do not see the same return on investment of our surrounding communities. Interestingly, those communities that would meet Mr. Dachowitz’s standard, those that see a strong academic ROI for money spent in education, spend significantly more than we do on a per student basis, in some cases more than 25% per student. This would suggest that the answer is not removing funding for our schools but actually increasing it.

No doubt seeing the challenges presented, Mayor Rilling promptly issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the statements made by Mr. Dachowitz. But that is not enough. This cannot be dealt with “internally” and behind closed doors. Mr. Dachowitz has shown that he does not represent this city as a partner in its success, instead he makes these decisions by inputting his own policy analysis into the proposed budget. We ask the Mayor to respond in the only appropriate manner: temporarily suspend Mr. Dachowitz from his leadership role in the BOE portion of City budgeting and appoint a new representative to lead these City-side discussions immediately.

Regardless of what side of the budget you are on – whether you feel NPS deserves nothing more, a modest increase, or their full ask – Mr. Dachowitz has proven time and again that he is unable to grapple with the language and harbor the character necessary to lead productive dialogue. His rhetoric is caustic, dismissive, and uncollaborative – at a time when the needs demand it.

We do not discount Mr. Dachowitz’s ability to navigate numbers and intentions at protecting a bottom line, but his role as a steward of the city is multi-fold.

This isn’t just about differences in what the City feels the BOE needs versus what they do. His job at communicating the City’s commitments does not operate in a vacuum, and likewise, we do not believe his language and resulting conclusions are without vetting. Ultimately, the Mayoral statement saying otherwise does not match the data, particularly when basic operating expenses are met only when the federal government steps in during a global public health emergency. We can’t help but wonder what will happen when those federal funds are gone.

That said, every year cannot be the “most difficult cycle” in recent memory. Every budget the “most challenging” to operate. This is what the administration preaches as a means to justify the belt-tightening. And while this year’s taxes appear to be going up, largely due to the phase out of federal funds across the board, at the low end they would rise by $13 per month for the average taxpayer, at the high end they would go up by $31 per month.

The Council and the Mayor must decide if supporting our schools and granting the BOE’s budget request is worth perhaps the extra $18 per month, or $216 per year, from the average taxpayer. In the likely event they decide against this scenario, then the justification for fair-spirited dialogue becomes more imperative, as reasonable compromise becomes the result of having the right personalities operating together with the right motivations. Our CFO has clarified his chosen tact.

In the end, the efforts of ourselves and others in this community are only just beginning. Our work thus far through the press, fundraising, and messaging has prompted the accession of three (nearly four) new parents on the Common Council. It has led to increased numbers of strong, courageous women and diversity on both CC and BOE. And it has served to bring notice to those that have singularly gone out of their way to suppress educational investment, that their efforts will not go without response. The population, and thus, political winds are changing – and we’ll embrace them, even if many of those in power are unwilling to.

Justin Matley & Sarah McIntee

(Justin Matley and Sarah McIntee are Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc. Board members. The views expressed are their own.)

34 comments

Joe February 13, 2022 at 2:51 am

Mr. Dachowitz does a fine job standing up for all of us taxpayers who have watched our NPS sink like a rock since the
1980’s.

My Fox Run is rated a terrible 2. It used to be rated 8 and so was the rest of the system 3 mayors ago.

We’re collapsing under the weight of sanctuary city chaos , weak academics and misguided administration.

After the last two years of remote learning, I think NPS owes us millions of dollars refund
because they got to stay at home…same goes for the stay at home municipal employees. We’ve been ripped off.

Jim Corrigan February 13, 2022 at 4:15 am

This is nonsense the man told the TRUTH. The original article is completely different in the Hour where he was recorded. The financial advisor said that spending 800K on water waste management causes home values to rise and tax collection to rise; as compared to schools, which even the best ones, don’t add to the city coffers. He was pointing to a serious loss of credit worthiness, losing the vaunted AAA bond rating, which every politician from Connors to Espisito had bragged about, no matter the strip mall developments or increased condos, REMEMBER. He was WARNING that the capital projects for the schools will destroy the towns budget and interest payments will increase for the town. The town wants to build two new schools and spend even ten of millions further on other schools. This will bankrupt us for decades. He said within two years it was a GUARANTEE the bond rating would go town, that’s an actuaries extrapolation, not partisanship. Their is an attempt to gas light the people into believing he insulted education or children. And the FORCED apology for the truth, this town is declining badly, not just financially.

Neighbor February 13, 2022 at 5:29 am

Let me get this straight – someone said something you didn’t like so you wanna replace him with someone that will say what you wanna hear?

He is the chief FINANCIAL officer and you wanna remove him from FINANCIAL conversations?

How does that improve the dialogue?

Steve February 13, 2022 at 8:07 am

Sadly, Henry Dachowitz’s comment- re: return on investment based on test scores, is simplistic and silly. There’s absolutely no attempt to dig into the details and flesh out the causes of the low test scores. Essentially, Dachowtiz is implying that NPS is a failing institution. There may be areas where NPS is deficient but Dachowitz doesn’t go there, but simply paints with a broad brush. Norwalk is an incredibly diverse district. It has 100s of kids living in high socio-economic households and 100s of kids who arrived in Norwalk in the past year, have minimal educations and don’t speak English. Beyond the test scores I would love to see what Mr. Dachowitz did to educate himself on the NPS system. My presumption is little to nothing. I strongly urge Mr. Dachowitz to educate himself on the NPS system and do some due diligence. NPS is by far the biggest expenditure for the City of Norwalk. Mr. Dachowitz should be rising classes- see what teachers and other staff are doing to support and educate students. Any budget director who isn’t doing the ground work to adequately study the line budget item that constitutes more than 40% of the expenditures is not doing their job

M Murray February 13, 2022 at 9:55 am

One has to wonder if those who are objecting to “Return on Investment” analysis in education are the same people clamoring for student loan forgiveness after agreeing to go $200,000 in debt for an easy degree that will give them a job making $50,000 a year.

John O'Neill February 13, 2022 at 11:00 am

I could not disagree with these writers more strongly. I would argue Dachowitz’s comments make him an honest broker. You may not like his message, but at least he’s given an unvarnished opinion. That’s more than I can say for others in this negotiation…Hank may be rough around the edges but he’s saying what many of us are thinking. That should grant him a continued sear at the table. I would further suggest that nuanced skewed comments from certain common council members should be called out by the writers above. Or, is this a one way street?

Kay Anderson February 13, 2022 at 11:28 am

Excellent piece that provides an immediate response to the disgraceful comments from the Mayor’s finance director regarding school budget discussions. In any case, neither the city nor the Board is served well by Mr. Dachowitz.

This thoughtful guidance on the budget, along with council members speaking up and asking insightful questions, suggests we may be seeing a new approach to discussing hard issues in a transparent manner by our elected officials.

Piberman February 13, 2022 at 12:26 pm

The writers above ignore the obvious – most of our City school grads fail to meet CT Edu Dept graduation standards or ever secure a 4 yr college degree. Despite our matching surrounding wealthy towns in teacher salaries and per student outlays.
We have major administrative public school failure in Norwalk and it won’t be solved with higher outlays. Finance Director Dashowitz is spot on. Bigger budgets won’t produce desired public school achievement in Norwalk. Nor will new schools. Much better school management is required. Our BOE doesn’t seem capable of securing that goal. Nor our school administrators.

The obvious question is why isn’t the community up in arms with our low performing public school system ? Why are we paying high City taxes to fund a low achieving public school system ? Where are our City Hall leaders, eg. Common council and Party Leaders ? Aren’t there any leaders in our City asking why we aren’t doing much better for our kids ?

If we love our children why do we as a City tolerate a public school system that doesn’t meet standards ? Is it because we care more about school management than the education of our children ? Half our City’s adults have 4 year college degrees. Yet according to CT Edu Dept data most of our grads never secure 4 yr degrees.

So what’s wrong here. Here’s a suggestion. Unless we elect BOE members with the business/professional skills and determination to secure a well functioning public school system nothing will change in Norwalk. We look silly giving CT’s highest Supt salary for an under performing public school system. Why would potential new homeowners with school age kids consider Norwalk when our public school system is failing to do the job ?

We ought to be thankful we have Finance Director Dashowitz at the helm. He’s by far the best qualified and most capable Director in the City’s modern history. Rather than bully him why aren’t parents turning their attention to the administrators and BOE responsible for our poorly performing public school system. Why aren’t the parents asking our City’s leaders to do so much better for our kids ?

Most revealingly neither the Supt (highest paid in CT) nor the BOE has a public plan on how to secure a Norwalk school system where most grads meet CT Edu Dept standards ? They’re just focused on spending more monies. When the real problem our schools need much better administrators and management to succeed. That’s our reality in Norwalk. We need much better public school management. Our surrounding towns spend the same per pupil, have superb schools and celebrate their BOE members with the respect they deserve. So we know what needs be done.

concerned observer February 13, 2022 at 12:31 pm

The CFO should remain front and center in all budgetary discussions and his intentions should not be twisted by some regrettable choice of words to obtain budget expediency by the board. The wokeness must stop. . . The emerging critiques/campaign against the CFO are nothing more than a subterfuge designed to deflect against holding NPS and the board accountable. Further, equating dollars spent with student achievement(the essence of the argument here) is by definition flawed logic as demonstrated by prior massive cash infusions into the system yielding negligible outcomes. Further, perennial budgetary “crisis” outcries by the BOE and their ilk are growing old , have lost their shock value and cannot be taken seriously while the administrative staff continues to be bloated and promoted with some of the highest salaries in the state and country all while playing coy with the constraints and limitations of the citizens and taxpayers they serve.

Taxpayers along with city officials must demand accountability and NPS should stop using pupils as their shields to hide the many shortcoming in the school system given an emerging view growing in the community that NPS can not be trusted to run independently.

Admiral February 13, 2022 at 2:32 pm

Typical “cancel culture” liberals. If you don’t like what somebody did or said, you want to “boot” them.
As Jack Nicholson once said, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Piberman February 13, 2022 at 6:36 pm

While operating schools that fail to meet CT Edu Dept graduation standards for a majority of our public school students is unfair to both our students and hard pressed homeowners finance the lion’s share of our highly paid public school system there’s also a very major “wealth effect”. Housing prices for the 5 surrounding towns are several times larger on average than in Norwalk and there’s evidence the differences are growing. Surely a primary reason for those large home value differences reflects Norwalk’s failing public schools compared to superb public schools in our 5 surrounding towns oft viewed as among the best in the nation. We pay similar salaries but the differences in student achievements are night and day.

Lets do some numbers. Norwalk has roughly 20,000 houses with median values of about $500,000 for a total of about $10 billion. Our surrounding towns homes have a similar number of homes and population but their homes are worth several times Norwalk’s. Clearly if Norwalk secured well managed public schools there would be a sharp rise in housing values. Our failing public schools are costing Norwalk homeowners billions of dollars in potential home value appreciation.

Norwalk homeowners face a triple whammy. First, our kids attend a failing public school system. One that fails to meet CT Edu Dept standards for most of our kids.
That’s awful. Second, we pay high property taxes because our BOE with Common Council approval matches public school salaries in our surrounding towns,. Third, we forgo many billions of dollars in potential home values owing to our high property taxes funding a well known failing public school system. Paying our Supt the highest salary in CT, over $300k, advertises our City’s public school mismanagement.

Imagine how Norwalk would be transformed if we elected a BOE having the ability and dedication to properly secure a well functioning public school system. Rather than funding a failing public school system with its high paid administrators. We need our City’s leaders to raise their sights and demand a well run public school system. Second we need elect BOE members every bit as capable as those normally elected in our surrounding towns. Not ones who merely ask for more monies and fail to oversee our high paid administrators. Why is it so hard in Norwalk to find and elect a BOE that earns our acclaim rather than our severe disappointment. Year after year asking for more monies but never delivering the desired education for our kids.

Mitch Adis February 13, 2022 at 8:28 pm

Dashowitz should be thanked for being the only honest person in City Hall.

BOE needs to be accountable for results!!

James February 13, 2022 at 9:16 pm

This was horrific to read and no the city finance professional should not be canceled from budget discussions. Unbelievable rhetoric!

Sue Haynie February 14, 2022 at 6:24 am

Well written article even though I disagree. We need more voices like CFO Dachowitz, not fewer. Muzzling Dachowitz doesn’t change the fact that over 50% of NPS students, primarily poor or minority, can’t read at grade level—and that this has been happening in NPS for DECADES despite $Millions in investment. Where is Mr. Matley’s and Ms. McIntee’s indignation about that fact? Or for that matter, where are the voices at the BOE? Mayor Rilling? Common Council?

Dachowitz spoke an uncomfortable truth. Illiteracy makes for an uncomfortable life.

Dachowitz is right!!! February 14, 2022 at 8:16 am

Why the uproar!!! What Dachowitz said was RIGHT…. Board of Education constantly wants more money, yet 50% of students are under preforming… The truth hurts,but the truth is the truth.

David Osler February 14, 2022 at 8:26 am

Said it already I agree with the finance director just because people don’t like hearing what’s a hard fact and doesn’t agree with their views doesn’t mean he’s wrong. It means he’s pointing out of reality you don’t like and no words will change that. He’s calling for action try fixing the systemic problems instead of being harmed by facts spoken before those responsible for dealing with them.

On target February 14, 2022 at 8:47 am

Dachowitz isn’t saying the kids aren’t worth the investment, he’s saying the people in charge of the education process aren’t.

Dennis A. Horvath February 14, 2022 at 9:58 am

Mr. Dachowitz is one of the best Chief Financial Officers that the City of Norwalk has employed and we are very fortunate to have him.
He has done a fantastic job as the steward of the City’s finances. He is dedicated to all taxpayers — senior citizens, young people who are new homeowners, and homeowners who have children in our school system.
With inflation so high at the present time, it is becoming
very costly for everyone to live in Fairfield County.
We taxpayers have to keep in mind that coming in 2023 the city is due for its next re-evaluation. So I am very grateful that Mr. Dachowitz will be at the helm at that time.
Jo-Anne Horvath

Stuart Garrelick February 14, 2022 at 10:30 am

Wow. Recommending that CFO Dashowitz be suspended for attempting to do his job.
I would hope that SOMEONE is evaluating “return on investment” for every penny spent by both the city and NPS. And can it be that our mayor’s comments in agreement are motivated by a fear that Mr. Dachowitz will look for “return on investment” in evaluating the city’s budget? Isn’t that what we all look for when we spend money? Instead, it seems stacking the city council to gain votes is recommended instead of accountability.
How much has it cost our city and our students when the hierarchy of NPS changes and each new administration reorganizes creating new executive positions, bringing in new cronies and new educational systems. Demanding “return on investment” is not something to denigrate. Continuing financing entities with “diminishing returns” is ridiculous. Mr. Dachowitz is not saying no. He is representing the best interest of every citizen in Norwalk as well as every student in our school system when he demands accountability. ABOUT TIME!
To give a less emotional example:-if we spent $1,000,000 on maintenance of our ball fields and then all the leagues found them unacceptable for league play, that would be a near zero return on investment and heads would roll.
Thank you Henry! Carry on.

Tysen Canevari February 14, 2022 at 11:53 am

If only you demanded the same accountability from your mayor. He opens the door to Norwalk as a sanctuary city and now our schools are over populated by undocumented people. It most definitely hurts the learning curve here in the Norwalk School system. If you think otherwise then you are dreaming. Mr Dachowitz was simply stating his educated opinion on the matter and kudos to him for doing so. Because it doesnt align with the mayor’s he now has to try and back track to make his boss happy. The system is way too top heavy with overpaid administrators. Start with the super. What justifies that she should make $300,000 plus a year? Based on what results? Our scores are always below where they should be. No Habla Ingles will continue to hammer that bottom line. The taxpayers of Norwalk shouldnt be held hostage every year for more money to pay top salaries in an underachieving district. The poor kids cant even play interschool sports because we cant afford buses to drive them there. I am sure art and music supplies are slim pickings too. The NHS band does so well because it is run independent of the school system. They are the best around. Then we have the nerve to ask Darien to take on some our kids too. What a joke. How about being accountable to us the taxpayer and making the schools more effecient instead of padding the bosses pockets every year. I personally think Mr Dachowitz should run for mayor and get the dead weight out of office.

Justin Matley February 14, 2022 at 2:38 pm

It’s clear from several of the comments here that many chose not to read the LTE, particularly its acknowledgement of issues across the board, and its nod to those that feel the budget ask isn’t what they support. But that’s fine. Headlines are meant to elicit a response I suppose! Those that did, thank you! Whether you agree with us or not, we’re happy to see your viewpoints. We don’t shy from them.

As for HD’s participation in these front-facing discussions, we support them on the basis that he’s not going to inject his own personal opinions and policy viewpoints, neither of which are his job. These he has done regularly for years – not just in this most recent discussion. We also expect him to use merit-worthy data when discussing said numbers, and this he fails to do by directly comparing us to incomparable surrounding towns. There’s no useful contextual ROI on current school children (yes there is for intradistrict historical data), and if there even were, none of it would account for COVID and the autonomous city use of federal dollars versus the BOE’s inability to use theirs as they wish. HD is welcome to use numbers as he chooses, but they’re detrimental to honest discussions as his own comparisons fail acknowledgement of:

1. a generational global pandemic (of which NPS managed favorably compared to richer surrounding towns),

2. historic underinvestment relative to these surrounding towns (a fact the administration acknowledges), and

3. our cultural diversity as a city (something surrounding town does not have on our scale.) A percentage he consistently ignores. This category has several failing parties on the financial front that, unfortunately, the BOE has to make up for, like it or not. We wish it weren’t that way.

As for the rest, we’re glad this got some people excited. Democracy is a blessing and we’re glad everyone can offer their two cents.

Justin Matley February 14, 2022 at 2:42 pm

I should also add that I think I can speak for Sarah and I that we are most definitely too boring and middle-of-the-road to be considered particularly “woke”. 🙂

Justin Matley February 14, 2022 at 3:20 pm

@Sue thanks for your addition! We don’t deny Norwalk has its challenges, and some of that is an effect of our population base – good or bad is up to the beholder (we argue our diversity is a strength not defined by pure numerical metrics). But our issue is the tact HD takes – his analysis entirely lacks context and widely available additional information that aren’t really analagous to simple ROI.

ROI is a useful metric when it’s both current and contextualized, as well as comparing apples to apples. His had neither. His job is to both analyze the numbers as well as express them in applicable terms. The fact that he did not do this and has not done this is a problem.

BOE may not deserve what they’re asking for. That’s not our stance one way or the other (although we support greater investment as a whole). But they do deserve, just as the city does, a representative who uses the whole of information available in their decision making and negotiations, and the character to actually discuss these matters with the empathy and thinking that our children and teachers deserve.

Ben February 14, 2022 at 4:29 pm

That was one of the most painful reads that i have ever come across, and i have read some real doozeys.

Mr. Dachowitz was 100% correct in what he said. Stop twisting his words around to make it seem as if he doesnt care about investing in NPS and students. What he wants is the NPS and the BOE to be accountable, or at least more focused, on how they spend taxpayer dollars. Can someone please tell me whats wrong with that assessment?!?

Seriously? February 14, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Whether one agrees with Mr. Dachowitz’s premise isn’t the issue. At worst, it was carelessly articulated, but don’t let that become the focus. The real issue it that BOE spending is out of control, and no one knows that better than does the city’s CFO.

If someone wants to talk about rhetoric that is “caustic, dismissive, and uncollaborative – at a time when the needs demand it,” I’d like to recommend that s(he) spend time listening to a couple of the superintendent’s cabinet members, who are downright offensive in their language and behavior. These are among the people making key decisions, and they are also among the people who are demoralizing too many district educators and support staff.

I hope MANY taxpayers will attend any budget hearings regarding this budget because the mayor needs to hear that this will be his last term if he promotes any more BOE spending than has been proposed. Likewise, the Democratic majority on the Common Council must be made the minority party if the runaway train continues off the rails.

Louise February 14, 2022 at 6:45 pm

Keep up the good work Mr. Dachowitz. You are speaking for the silent majority in Norwalk who can’t afford to keep paying ridiculously high auto and property taxes. We support you 100%.

Norwalk Native February 14, 2022 at 6:57 pm

Mr. Dachowitz deserves the Congressional Medal of Freedom for standing up for taxpayers against the Teachers Unions and associated special interests.

I will send an email and snail-mail letter to my Congressman Jim Himes and to my Senator Chris Murphy. I’m sure they will read it and respond in kind that they agree, since they are know to also support taxpayers over Teachers Unions.

Babar Sheikh February 14, 2022 at 9:32 pm

I wouldn’t say this is woke stuff. It’s just good old fashioned over reacting to someone’s poor choice of words. Even the best can have a bad day. Let’s move on already, all the tangential issues make it harder to get real work done.

Jeff February 14, 2022 at 9:56 pm

@Justin – with all do respect, you still don’t address the fact that our students aren’t up to basic standards as Piberman and Sue have pointed out, for years now. We can discuss ROI until the cows come home but I think we all know that HD was referring to student standards when he made that comment. As a parent with a child in NPS, I’d love to spend all the money in the world on the schools but as a taxpayer, I also don’t feel I’m getting a good return on my students education and fear they won’t be ready after high school. The BOE needs to do better and demand better results, not raises for a superintendent not getting the job done. I’d rather spend $200k on 4-5 new teachers in the classrooms than another overpaid Central office job. Or spend any further money on a Welcome Center or new NHS that no one asked for and is now cloaked in controversy. Use that money for the additional funds you’re looking for first.

Ct. V February 15, 2022 at 8:43 am

There’s a question in budget processes about the how much and the how. My thought is that Mr Dachowitz believes that no matter how much you give to the current BOE it will not be used smartly. In these cases you have the choice of saying let’s give them more and hope it ends up going well or on the other hand saying “maybe this isn’t the group we should trust with the checkbook.”

Justin Matley February 15, 2022 at 10:17 am

@Jeff. Thanks for your thoughtful response. It’s true: this LTE has a particular focus. That’s the idea. We don’t discount academic ROI as a metric, it just needs to be used appropriately and with proper context. This is something that he’s repeatedly not done. This isn’t simply a reaction to the comments from last week, as we’ve noted, it’s a failure to articulate numbers in a meaningful way. On top of it, injecting policy into his discussion points is simply not his job. This is not a reaction to a one time word stumble. This is a pattern in these discussions.

We do not give either side a pass, as was also articulated. You’re not going to get 4-5 teachers for $200K in CT, but I do agree that heavy top spending has its risks. It’s not for me to decide or comment on the merit of those jobs. I am not in those meetings. I won’t simply say “they make good money so we don’t need them.” That may be the case, but I don’t have the data to judge. They’ve only had this structure a single year.

Your comments on capital expenditures are well voiced. I was publicly against the original Welcome Center plan (it’s since been already opened in an existing building) and am still mostly supportive of a new NHS (with a pool)… but all of this is unrelated to this discussion. We were writing about the operating budget discussions, not the capital budget discussions. They are two totally different conversations.

Piberman February 17, 2022 at 4:55 pm

If the writers are indeed “fiercely supportive of Norwalk schools” then why aren’t they “deeply offended” by a failing public school system that fails to meet CT Edu Dept standards for most of our graduating students ? Isn’t that egregious failure a cause “for alarm” ? And why aren’t these parents objecting vigorously to a BOE that pays CT’s top salary for a Supt who oversees a failing public school system ? Isn’t that a major embarrassment demonstrating lack of basic competence in our BOE ?

So far none of the commentators have celebrated our public school management.
Is everyone “blind” save the BOE and Common Council ? Or is the situation hopeless ?

Jeff March 9, 2022 at 12:50 pm

@Justin – a little late for me to respond but here goes. First, thank you for your response. I do disagree with you that operating and capital budgets are two different discussions, I believe you can’t have one without the other. I’m a contractor here in Town and after my Clients describe the project they are envisioning, my follow up question/discussion is have you prepared to maintain it as such. For example, before opening the Welcome Center, was it in the operating budget to maintain it (staff, cleaning, utilities, supplies)? Or was it left as, “we’ll figure it out”? The problem with this approach is the BOE is going to come back next year and ask for more money because now they have to maintain these facilities that were not in last years operating budget.

The NHS project blows this example out of the water. First, from a capital approach, we STILL don’t know what this is REALLY costing the taxpayers of Norwalk. The costs put out there don’t include a pool, just a bunch of people saying, “we’ll figure it out”. That doesn’t cut it for me. Second, with a project of this size, and the conversation of our ratings going on, why are we forcing this all through? Is it because some local politicians will lose face if it falls through?! With a project this size, and costing the City tens of millions of dollars out of our own pocket (with a project our very own BOE never asked for) and the money sorely needed for other school projects, why is this not going to a referendum? It really feels like it’s moving forward with little to no input from the community, especially on the fundamental question of whether the City residents/taxpayers actually want it! I don’t think the average resident really knows what it’s going to cost them. BTW – could there be a worse time to build right now with material and labor prices where they are? Even that $190m-ish number will get blown out of the water and then the City will be coming back for more money because then they are committed to finishing the project.

From an operating approach, this project will absolutely cost more to maintain than the current NHS. Get an independent evaluator with no skin in the game to tell you if you don’t believe me. Not someone who works for the City, or a contractor who’s going to build it, they will tell you what you want to hear. Then once this project is finished, the BOE will want even more money added to the budget to maintain and we go through this same cycle again.

Got a little sidetracked with the NHS example but I think you get my point.
Both discussions need to be had simultaneously or it doesn’t work. My advice, stop spending (borrowing) money that we don’t have!

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