NORWALK, Conn. – When the topic of placing automatic external defibrillators (AED’s) in all Norwalk schools came up at Wednesday night’s Mayor’s Night Out, the suggestion – advanced by Common Council member Michelle Maggio (R-District C) was greeted with enthusiasm.
What no one in the room knew was that the potentially life-saving equipment is already included in Superintendent Manny Rivera’s proposed 2014-15 operating budget.
In a comment posted Thursday on NancyOnNorwalk, Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons wrote, “The budget request approved by the Board of Ed on Tuesday night includes $80,000 for placement of AEDs in all of our schools.”
In answer to a follow-up email, Lyons said the request is part of the operating budget rather than the capital budget.
Maggio, who chairs the council’s Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee, told the Mayor’s Night Out crowd – about 45 people, including two dozen city officials – that defibrillators are needed in all the schools. Assistant Town Clerk Erin Herring, the staff person assigned to Maggio’s committee, agreed.
“My son has a heart condition and I was actually in Hartford when they made that bill” that stopped just short of requiring schools to have the AED’s. “I went to Hartford several times to speak at congressional hearings about passing it.
“I believe Norwalk is one of the only places in the state that does not have them. And my son, I don’t want him to be the first one to get this going.”
Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona addressed the issue and said it had been talked about in the past, but financing was an issue.
“We’re looking into it right now and investigating the cost of it,” he said, but gave no indication it was in the current budget request.
Council member John Igneri (D-District E), who arrived late from a special Personnel Committee meeting – as did Maggio – said his panel had just approved a change to the Pay Plan which allowed Mayor Harry Rilling to not accept a scheduled increase in his salary of nearly $24,000 approved last year by the council, and suggested using the money for the defibrillators.
Not necessary, according to Lyons.
According to Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton, earmarking the money for a BOE purchase is not something the city could legally do.
“The Board of Education has complete and sole discretion on the use of the operating budget funds that are provided to them by the city; the city is not permitted to dictate how they spend the $162.3 million in operating funds that were appropriated for education purposes in FY 2013-14,” he wrote in an email. “So, although the BOE could request a special appropriation and indicate that it would be used for a specific purpose, I do not believe that the city actually has the legal right to dictate that they use the money for this particular purpose.”
Hamilton said the board, if it wanted to get money from the current budget, “would need to submit a formal request to me and the mayor. If the mayor were in support of that request and agreed to place it on the agenda, a special appropriation would then need the approval of the BET and the Common Council.”
Rilling indicated Wednesday night that he is strongly in favor of having the equipment in the schools and said there are companies that might be interested in funding such purchases. He followed up on that Thursday.
“I’m exploring a separate avenue to obtain defibs for NPS,” he said in an email. “I had a preliminary meeting today and will follow up with a possible funding source soon. I’m committed to having them placed in all our schools as soon as possible.”