Norwalk BOE chief: State budget means ‘rebuilding’ can begin

Norwalk Common Council meets BOE Jan. 28 2013 015
Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona explains his intent to begin rebuilding Norwalk Public Schools in January at a joint Board of Education/Common Council Finance Committee meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – The roller coaster ride that has enveloped the Norwalk Public Schools 2013-2014 budget process took another upswing when the state passed its budget including, according to an email from state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), a $1.6 million increase for Norwalk’s schools.

The increase, Duff said, comes in the form of $1.3 million in a Priority School District grant and $326,590 in ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) funding. “Norwalk was the only district in the state to receive a boost in the Priority School grant,” he said.

That was good news, said Norwalk Board of Education President Mike Lyons, who said plans to restore at least some of what was lost in last year’s budget can now be put back on track.

“I can definitively say that at least part of the rebuilding can be done; we are definitely no longer treading water and will be rebuilding,” he said in an email. “Final number-crunching is underway by staff now to determine just how much can be restored.”

Two of the top priorities mentioned in the budget request submitted in January were intramural sports at the middle schools, plus six elementary school library aides and two middle school library aides.

Hopes of restoring some of the positions lost last year rose and fell over the past several months as first the city, then the state bandied about budget figures. The original BOE request was trimmed before going to the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, which reduced the numbers even more. Still, nothing was cast in stone pending the state’s announcement of how much it would be sending Norwalk’s way. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s plan would have sent the schools more money, but with limits on how it could be spent, while cutting its aid to the city. Mayor Richard Moccia said that would mean the city would have to cut its allotment to thee schools to make up for the loss of state funds.

In the end, the schools got the money to start rebuilding without taking away from the city.

The BOE will now begin to decide its priorities.



4 responses to “Norwalk BOE chief: State budget means ‘rebuilding’ can begin”

  1. Tom Keegan

    I’m considering running for the Board of Education…not as a Republican or a Democrat maybe as a Norwalk Parent with a child in The School System Party…..I have a daughter in the 3rd grade at Cranbury Elementary School…in my humble opinion I believe the entire BOE System in Norwalk is dysfunctional…my apologies to Mr. Dadonna & The Board of Ed…but……I can’t believe that a City of this size under funds their Public School System each & every year by dramatic amounts…I can’t believe that our school, Cranbury, one of the highest performing schools in the district still has chalk boards and any improvements in technology have been funded by our PTO….and I can’t believe that The Norwalk Board of Ed..can’t put pressure on Larry Cafero, Bob Duff and the other State Reps to change the ECS Formula..and get more money for our schools….What does our Board of Education do….besides fuel their own egos!

  2. Bruce Kimmel

    I agree: Without major changes in the ECS grant formula, we’ll remain behind the curve.
    I can’t fathom why our representatives in Hartford send out press releases announcing that the city received more crumbs than last year. To put things in perspective: Next fiscal year, Danbury will get $38 million in state aid, Norwalk will receive about $20 million. We cannot possibly make up the difference and properly fund the schools by increasing taxes or even growing the grand list. We need to change the ECS formula.
    On a more positive note: At least we were able to fully fund the BOE’s budget request this year. It required a 3.9% property tax increase, a modest increase in state aid, some current surpluses that will be rolled into the next fiscal year, and the discovery of savings in various accounts. But we did it.
    The interesting question that has yet to be answered: Why did some Council members vote against a budget, without saying a word, that most of us knew would at least come close to fully funding the BOE?

  3. piberman

    To Tom Keegan

    What is the standard you consider appropriate for whether Norwalk “underfunds” its school system ? In terms of public school teacher salaries Norwalk ranks 5th in the state, more than any other City, despite ranking only 17th in household income. Had school teacher salaries been more in line with our City median incomes more school funds would have been available for other school resources.

    Another measure is dollars spent per student. Here the CT Dept of Ed. figures show Norwalk is right up there with the wealthiest towns in the state despite very large disparities in incomes available.

    When the Arbitration Awards Panel made its recommendation it do so taking into account Norwalk teacher salaries, the school budget size, the incomes of City residents, housing values and so forth. But the NFT argued, without credible evidence, that Norwalk was “one of the wealthiest communities in the nation” and well able to afford higher teacher salaries. Do you belief the NFT ?

    What about the ECS formula. Democrats control both the Governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature with super majorities. If they were interested in giving Norwalk a more equitable share of state educational funding it would have been done. What’s holding them up ?
    Not Republicans ! Not Rep. Cafero. Ask your Democratic legislators who have a lock grip on the state legislature what’s the problem. So far they are not convinced Norwalk should receive substantially more monies. Its not the BOE’s task to legislate Hartford. Ask your legislators why they can’t do better. Hint: there are 169 towns involved.

    Finally if you really do consider the “entire BOE system in Norwalk is dysfunctional..” may I suggest you consider some other form of community service. There are some very capable citizens on the BOE as demonstrated by their recent appeal to the Arbitration Award Panel with results saving the City $2.6 million, hiring additional financial expertise in the form of a CFO and the BOE is engaged in a professional search for a new Supt. and COO.

    What Norwalk needs is not citizens who feel the BOE is “dysfunctional” but citizens who understand the import of board governance and are willing to make respectful contributions to the BOE and our City. My observation and that of many long term residents is that the current BOE stands head and shoulders over recent BOE’s. Of course, there’s always room for additional stronger and well committed candidates.

    But not for candidates who declare willy nilly that the BOE is “dysfunctional”. The evidence is to the contrary. Moreover, the BOE faces reportedly the most hostile school unions in the state. Do obtain copies of the monthly bulletin published by the NFT – the “Vanguard”. Ask around in other Districts if their unions publish such unprofessional criticisms about their supervisory authorities. Ask around whether their school union chiefs publish harshly critical OpEds in their local newspapers. Or ask around whether their Principals lead marches of parents and other citizens protesting City budgets.

    Above all become familiar with recent documents involved in the arbitration hearings, Tom Hamiltons lengthy report, attend BOE meetings, ask to speak to BOE members. Study the school budget. Become well informed. There is no room at the BOE for any new member who decides willy nilly that the BOE is “dysfunctional”.

    The BOE is our most important elected body and always needs our most capable citizens with a real commitment to serve, not to make quick judgments. Or to seek publicity in the local media.

  4. spanner

    can’t fathom why our representatives in Hartford send out press releases announcing that the city received more crumbs than last year.

    I have to agree Bruce,one of the same reps talked about St Vincents grants and how they have to sharpen their pencil showed little remorse for not funding what was needed.This rep forgets by his cameo appearance on channel twelve. St Vincents has saved many Norwalk lives and employs many Norwalk and Darien voters,

    This same rep stands on Oyster Shell park and thinks covering up hazardous waste is better than cleaning it up.He also over the years has thrown money at Norwalk for projects that were truly poor ideas and lousy concepts.This just shows Norwalk needs new blood in the Statehouse just like on the floor of the council.

    Your independent thinking Bruce seems to be the way to go on this issue when we have such chaos in Norwalk.You just may have won a few votes back on this last post.

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