NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Richard Moccia promised half a million dollars for Norwalk school safety improvements Tuesday evening, although he said he doesn’t quite know where the money will come from yet.
The Norwalk Board of Education voted unanimously to request the $500,000 special capital appropriation, an unusual step as the money will come in advance of the next capital budget cycle. The request will now go to the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Common Council. Moccia indicated that the money would be found.
Finance Director Thomas Hamilton has been out of work due to a death in the family, Moccia said. Hamilton is expected back Thursday.
“When Tom comes back we’ll have a little better understanding of what we can do capital-wise and some of the operating,” Moccia said. “The sum total is this: We want $500,000 to help make our schools safer. Whatever accounts we get it from, that’s what we want.”
This follows an extensive Norwalk Police Department safety review of the schools.
The board appropriated $100,000 for school safety in its 2013-2014 capital budget.
“The $100,000 that we first appropriated was a good start but there are quite a few other things that we think would help promote school safety given the recommendations of the police department and other committees that we have been working with,” Facilities Committee Chairman Jack Chiaramonte said.
Board member Steve Colarossi asked where the new appropriation would come from. Board Chairman Mike Lyons said he did not know.
“We are not proposing which accounts to be drawn from for that,” Lyons said. “My understanding from talking with (Superintendent Manny Rivera) and conversations that he has had with the city is that there are some capital accounts out there, where the projects have finished under budget and there is money left in the capital budget. We are hoping to have that reallocated. I should point out that, usually when you ask for $500,000, you have a pretty detailed explanation of it. I should point out to people that there is a detailed explanation, which is in these police reports.”
The board has been secretive about the recommendations of its safety committee.
“Obviously we can’t discuss specifics in public about a security plan because then you are announcing to people that might want to breach it what your plan is,” Lyons said. “But I can tell you in general terms this money would be used to better protect buildings physically from unauthorized entry, better internal communications systems and external communications systems, electronic security measures. There’s a whole panoply of work that would go into this.”
The school safety improvements are looked upon as a three-phase plan, he said. The $100,000 allowed the board to get a “real fast” start on things, he said. This is an interim request that will allow work to be done now, while the students are in school, he said.
“Normally you wait until the next capital budget, and money under that capital budget couldn’t be available until at least July of 2014,” he said. “We don’t want to wait until July of 2014 to keep doing work, so this interim appropriation, a special appropriation, assuming that the Board of Estimate and council can fund it, would allow us to continue making the kinds of physical improvements that I am talking about without having to wait to July of 2014.”
That won’t be the end of it. Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona is working on a longer term capital appropriation in addition to the $500,000 request that will occupy the new council.
Moccia said it will be discussed at the Nov. 1 BET meeting.
“I think it’s safe to say that should we not be able to scrub all of the capital accounts, if we have something in some operating contingency, we’ll look at that, too, to make sure we can come up with a half million dollars to make the schools safer,” he said.