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Norwalk BET’s ‘0%’ funding for NPS will create a fiscally irresponsible ‘cliff’

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten, left; Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella, right.

We are greatly concerned by the recommendation last night to hold the Norwalk Public Schools budget to a zero increase for the 2021-22 school year, under the assumption that federal Covid relief funds can be used to cover the resulting budget gap. While we appreciate the importance of minimizing tax increases in this economically challenging time, doing so creates a fiscally irresponsible “cliff” for Norwalk’s school budget in the years to come.

The District’s requested 4.6% increase was built to cover typical annual costs that come from running an organization that is built on people. This included contractual increases for teachers, nurses, custodians and other employees, as well as a rise in employee health insurance costs. Relying on funding that will only be available for a defined period of time merely delays this year’s local budget impact to a later date, and is likely to lead to the need for a double-digit increase in years to come. We welcome the idea of applying the savings from efficiencies identified in Citywide and District operations to the school budget, but those amounts are unclear and just speculative at this point.

As a result, absent a much larger than normal increase in the future, the school system down the road would be facing drastic budget cuts across the board. We strongly believe that is not an effective or responsible financial approach.
While Covid relief funds are much needed and most welcome, they are intended to address one-time issues arising from the pandemic. We have already started planning for how to use those funds to address student learning and social emotional needs, caused by the disruption from his past year. We urge the City to reconsider this approach to the 2021-22 school budget, or otherwise incorporate an explicit plan for addressing the budget shortfalls that will be inevitable in the near future.

7 comments

Bobby Lamb April 7, 2021 at 9:16 am

Seriously? Is this letter asking the city to raise taxes during a pandemic because the the schools have too much money? This superintendent is worse than the last one! Spend it one one time expenses and you won’t have a “cliff”.

Collie April 7, 2021 at 9:49 am

Work with what you have. Norwalk taxpayers cannot afford anymore tax increases. We pay so much already and our kids are not even reaping the benefits.

Justin Matley April 7, 2021 at 2:22 pm

This whole process has, once again, shown that the backstops the populous votes for to debate and process important issues, argue, and find areas of compromise or rebuttal, the BOE and Common Council, are frankly, mostly powerless. It’s entirely in the hands of the Mayor. The rest; the meetings, the statements, the back and forth: it’s all window dressing. A convoluted process that is charter mandated, but realistically smoke and mirrors.

Until the Mayor feels politically challenged to support these issues in rational ways that prioritize them, this will never resolve in ways we believe it should.

Jenn McMurrer April 7, 2021 at 5:07 pm

I agree with everything Justin Matley said.

Those complaining should instead of blaming the superintendent, take a closer look at how the city is spending your money. At one point the city was going to give itself a 6% increase while the BOE was asking for 4% which got slashed to 2% now it is zero. Why is it the schools are the bad guys test again?

If your only concern is taxes, we pay much smaller taxes than other towns, and yet your answer even when they give 0 to the schools during a pandemic is to condemn the people who are looking after our kids during COVID and helping them navigate the social emotional issues they are certainly going to be dealing with for years to come. The very kids that are the future of this city. I hope these kids will show you more compassion when they are your doctors and nurses in the future than you have shown them.

Disgusted April 7, 2021 at 6:20 pm

Here’s a novel idea. How about you cut expenses in Norwalk public schools and stop using the money that is there to subsidize learning for ELL and people that have not spent their lives in Norwalk paying taxes? The board and the superintendent are just absolutely pathetic at this point. Every time something comes out from there I say to myself I will probably never me more disgusted with their blatant disregard for fiscal prudence. Then they release a letter like this. Each and every one of them are truly pathetic.

James April 7, 2021 at 9:48 pm

The city boasts about grand list growth but school funding gets held flat. Schools offer no targets for improvement in reading and math comprehension, but taxpayers are forced to pay for a flashy new HS. Developers profit off population growth while the city pays more to provide public services. Politicians benefit from printed money (future debt) to solve today’s problems. The exploding costs of college outweighs the benefits. Young people seek careers working from home.

Bob Taylor May 12, 2021 at 9:50 pm

No Transparency in the NPS and Teachers are burned out.

Parents all across Norwalk need to start questioning the transparency in our Norwalk Public Schools. People in the Superintendents office are making way too much money on their salaries, People are being hired for positions that nobody knows about or understands, and Teachers are continuing to work extremely long hours after school with no compensation. Nobody seems to care or question what is happening with the millions of dollars being spent in Norwalk now. People need to say enough is enough.

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