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Norwalk scrutinizes reasons for lower Danbury education expenses

Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera begins a discussion comparing Danbury’s education costs to Norwalk’s education costs Thursday in City Hall.
Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera begins a discussion comparing Danbury’s education costs to Norwalk’s education costs Thursday in City Hall.

Updated, 7 p.m., new PDF

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk officials have begun studying a financial comparison of education costs with a nearby city with similar characteristics to see where savings might be made.

Danbury has a similar number of students, and a similar percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, but the city spends considerably less – Danbury’s 2013-2014 operating budget was $118.3 million, while Norwalk’s 2013-2014 operating budget was $162.27 million.

Part of the difference is attributable to fewer school buildings and larger class sizes, but Danbury spends considerably less on custodians, special education and teachers’ salaries. In fact, the cost of salaries in general is much higher in Norwalk.

That’s all according to Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl.

Rudl compiled a comprehensive set of statistics in response to questions asked by Common Council members in January. The statistics were shared with members of the Finance Committee last week.

Not included in the report: When Connecticut Magazine rated the state’s cities and towns in 2013, Norwalk was ranked the No. 2 city, behind Stamford, but had the highest graduation rte (87.9) among the seven largest cities. Danbury’s rate was considerable lower at 76.8. Stamford’s rate was 85.2.

Another website, SchoolDigger.com, ranked Norwalk’s school system 110th out of 164 Connecticut districts. Danbury was 134th.

Council members were enthsiastic about Rudl’s presentation.

“This is the first time where we’ve got it in a format that it’s a good comparison,”Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said.

“It was an eye opener to me,” Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said.

Norwalk has 19 schools; Danbury has 15, Rudl said. Danbury has one very large high school, with about 3,000 students, he said. Danbury pays $11,214 per student; Norwalk pays $14,648.

Norwalk pays

• $9 million more for fringe benefits and payroll taxes due to quantity of employees, type of insurance

• $6.3 million more for special education, out of district tuition/consulting

• $3.8 million more for the teacher salary table

• $2 million more for salary structure and quantity of school aides

• $1.5 million more for sick time/vacation time pay-out for retirees

• $1.2 million more for custodians

• $1 million more for administrator’s salaries

• $970,000 more due to class size restrictions

• $700,000 more for substitutes

If you could take all of that out, Norwalk would pay $12,191 per student.

Custodial salaries are similar, but Norwalk uses an average of five custodians per building while Danbury has four custodians per building.

Rudl said custodians’ contracts used to stipulate that they would be responsible for a maximum of 3,000 square feet per school. “They are kind of carved out into these little zones in each building, which has kind of inflated the amount of custodians you would have in a building,” he said.

That literally means that a custodian gets to a certain point in a hallway and stops, he said.

That has been phased out of the contracts, so things will improve over time, he said. Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera said the district is looking toward “contracting out and phasing that in over time.”

Rivera said that he and other administrators had already begun picking up on the custodian issue and the special education costs, but the comparison offered additional insights and a tool.

“We are entering to negotiations not only for the wage opener and NFT (Norwalk Federation of Teachers) but with NASA (Norwalk Association of School Administrators), that’s coming up right around the corner,” Rivera said. “I have been looking at these contracts for the last four or five months. There are some things that we didn’t talk about tonight that I think are potential opportunities even beyond that. But when you compare yourself to another city, like Danbury, which is comparable, you really pick up on other details. … There’s really good, rich data that hopefully we can use.”

The Norwalk teachers’ contract has eight potential categories, while Danbury’s has five, Rudl said. Norwalk’s most populated category has an average salary that is 8 percent higher than the top step of Danbury’s most populated category.

Norwalk pays retiring teachers who have been here at least 15 years their accrued sick time, capped at 55 days. Up to six days are earned for early notification. This costs Norwalk between $875,000 to $1.5 million a year, Rudl said.

Danbury pays nothing for sick days upon severance.

Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) talked about the nature of binding arbitration in Connecticut and said that, with negotiations coming up, there might be an opportunity.

“I always figured we were kind of limited in what we could do because of our region and the reference groups. But I am looking at this, and this is clearly not the case. It seems to me we can solve a lot of these problems,” Kimmel said.

He said that, from his perspective as a retired teacher, he wasn’t sure about the Norwalk contract. “But there has to be a middle ground. We are not there, that I can tell,” he said.

More than 50 percent of the difference in the special education expenditures from the two districts comes from tuition costs – Norwalk pays $6.2 million while Danbury pays $2.88 million, he said. In addition, Norwalk pays $3.3 million for consulting services, while Danbury pays $500,000, he said.

Rivera has previously mentioned that Norwalk needs to look into creating its own special education facility.  He brought it up again at Thursday’s meeting.

“We went from 99 students in out-of-district placement in 2011 to close to 132 to 133 now, pretty big increase. We’re working to get that under control. I’m actually coming back to my board before the end of this school year, toward the end of June, with a recommendation to look at making some major changes in special education, how we run our PPTs (Planning and Placement Teams), the kinds of standards that we bring and how we get some control on this,” he said. “We are looking into creating centers that can even be revenue generating.”

That would involve services for hearing-impaired children and students with autism at “considerable cost savings,” he said.

Kimmel agreed.

“It might be worthwhile in our upcoming budget cycles to be very penny foolish and pound wise,” he said. “In the long run we will be generating income for the city. We might have to do that. It will be costly but we will have to do that.”

Danbury Comparison PDF

 

Comments

36 responses to “Norwalk scrutinizes reasons for lower Danbury education expenses”

  1. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Great information – finally, a competent CFO! Perhaps Councilman Kimmel, as chair of the Finance Committee of the Common Council, can ask for a similar study to be done comparing our city government costs to others in Connecticut?

  2. Piberman

    The lower operating costs in Danbury vis a vis Norwalk for all levels of local governance compared to Norwalk have known for decades. That reflects primarily more competent elected officials keeping a sharper eye on public outlays. In turn that reflects more vigorous political parties than Norwalk. Nothing better illustrates the competence of our elected officials than offering the highest paid City employees in the state. Danburry is a city to watch. Its population is passing Norwalk and with continuing business investments is demonstrating a level of competence in elected and appointed officials that the “hole in the middle of the donut” might well envy. A good place to start would be with a BET and Council
    Finance Chair and Committee who actually have financial backgrounds. Not just the titles. But this is Norwalk where finance is too complicated girl our elected officials. And we’d pay the price in higher taxes. How can the Council discuss the budget without actually having the ability of members able to read and discuss the budget ! So they defer to the Finance Head.

  3. Peter Parker

    @Taxpayer Fatigue.. Amen and Ditto!

  4. the donut hole

    “Norwalk was ranked the No. 2 city, behind Stamford, but had the highest graduation rte (87.9) among the seven largest cities.”
    .
    This statistic measures the number of incoming seniors vs graduates. A better measure of success would be measuring incoming freshman vs. graduates. Then you’d see Norwalk has a 30% dropout rate like the rest of the cities. It must be because we don’t spend anything on schools.

  5. anonymous

    Taxpayer Fatigue, ditto! A CFO and superintendent who know what they’re doing.

  6. Lwitherspoon

    Ditto Taxpayer Fatigue.
    .
    Comparisons of the sort described in this article always yield valuable information. Bravo to the Common Council Finance Committee for requesting the study and sharing the results with the school board and the public. Lastly, thank you to NoN for bringing us this news.
    .
    Norwalk’s teachers will rightly point out that living in or near Danbury is considerably less expensive than living in or near Norwalk. True, but the discussion shouldn’t end there, as there are ways to quantify the difference. Also there are many differences between the budgets that aren’t related to cost of living. How about adding Stamford’s costs to the comparison to see how we fare relative to a larger city that’s even closer to NYC than Norwalk?
    .
    I hope the Common Council, Supt. Rivera, Mike Lyons, and the rest of the BOE continue to focus on controlling costs. Norwalk needs you to keep working hard to get the most out of our tax dollars.

  7. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record, in light of Mr. Berman’s repeated accusations that the members of the Finance Committee are total idiots when it comes to finances:
    .
    Mr. McCarthy has a degree from the Wharton School and is an executive at IBM, Mr. Igneri was a successful business executive in NYC for many years before retiring, Mr. Hempstead is in charge of facilities for all Stew Leonard sites, and Mr. Petrini is a long-time very successful small business owner in Norwalk. And, at one point in my life, Columbia University considered me an expert in statistics and agrarian economics.

  8. I should note that the BoE’s Finance Director did the bulk of the research here and that he and Dr. Rivera did a good job sharing the data with the Council. As TF and PP noted, the quality of financial management at the Board of Ed has completely transformed in the last two years.

    Lwitherspoon is correct that the cost of living in Norwalk is higher than in Danbury, and that accounts for some of the difference. But there is clearly a lot of room for continuing the cost control efforts that we have begun. That will be a central focus of the Board in the union negotiations starting this summer.

  9. the donut hole

    WTH does cost of living have to do with it? By this argument, we could pay any and all teachers who decided to live in or past Danbury less money to teach here. Imagine telling your boss you need an above market pay raise because he decided to locate his company in Norwalk as opposed to Danbury and that it is his fault for doing so. If we weren’t crushing our property values out of existence it might be funny.

  10. Casey Smith

    “A good place to start would be with a BET and Council
    Finance Chair and Committee who actually have financial backgrounds.”
    .
    Mr. Berman, you make it sound like the BET and the Finance Committee members are clueless and have been in the past. Not so! Mr. Kimmel has listed the qualifications for the Finance Committee.
    .
    I’d like to point out to Mr. Berman that the previous BET Chairman, Fred Wilms, is a Senior Vice President of a local bank.
    .
    Erik Anderson, who is currently serving on the BET, is also involved in banking.
    .
    Anne Yang-Dwyer is a Financial Agent who is able to buy/sell securities. She works for Cadwyn Point Partners LLC.
    .
    I think it is a gross disservice to both the Finance Committee members and the BET members to claim they have no financial knowledge.

  11. Donut, salaries (in both the public and private sectors) always have shown correlations to the cost of living in the relevant area, all over the country; that’s simply a fact. It makes perfect economic sense in a competitive marketplace; equalization of wages in similar professions should be expected, and the equalization happens — IF one factors in the regional cost of living to generate the NET income to persons working in different areas (see http://trinity.edu/dmacpher/Pdfs/EI_Cost-of-Living%20Oct%2099.pdf). Note, however, that I said this fact only accounts for “some” of the difference between Danbury and Norwalk, and that there is “a lot of room for continuing cost control efforts” to address the rest of that difference.

  12. LWitherspoon

    @donut hole
    Most people value their free time and seek to maximize it. As such, they tend to want to live close to where they work.
    .
    Some will choose to accept a longer commute time in order to live in a lower-cost area. I doubt anyone would choose a longer commute if there were no benefit from doing so.
    .
    In any case, I agree with Mike Lyons – Danbury’s lower cost of living probably accounts for some but not all of the cost difference with Norwalk. The only reason I bring this up is that we often see teacher union people rebutting stories such as this one with a factoid that only tells part of the story. Probably they haven’t commented on this one yet because they are busy plotting to derail Mike Lyons and the Board of Ed’s recent efforts at cost control, which even Peter Berman lauded as “historic”. Lyons deserves a medal, and perhaps even a monument.

  13. Non partisan

    The report appears to put things into the correct light and is a great start to looking at how to provide value and control the expense side

    Indicating that Norwalk has a higher cost of living and thereby justifies a higher salary is a good excuse but at the end of the day is gibberish. It all come down to can the administration fill the slots at a lower cost vs competition from other districts.

  14. Piberman

    Long time residents remember when BET and Council members not only demonstrated detailed knowledge of the City budget but asked serious questions to the Finance Head and Mayor. Anyone who reads the BET or Council Finance Committee minutes from past years can only conclude that they are indeed “amen choruses”. Our taxes and City salaries reflect their appalling lack of “financial interest”.

    On qualifications what other towns and or cities has a former reading teacher as a Council Finance Chief. Or a BET with a recently appointed Board Chair of the egregiously managed NEON without protest by any Council member? Qualifications count. Competence more so. Our taxes and salaries evidence obvious problems with both competence and qualifications on ket committees. Unless it’s the tooth fairy who is responsible. Has any Council member demonstrated full knowledge of the City budget and made serious reductions for major reductions to affordable levels ? If so show us the record ?

    Why is Danburry becoming the County’s no. 2 City when far removed from Stamford ? Easy answer. Better City management and elected officials. Ask their business community. Or their citizenry. Danburry citizens are proud of their well managed city. Anyone proud of how Norwalk is managed with its 5th highest paid teachers and top salaries of city workers generally ? If so identify yourselves ! Elected officials and City workers need not apply.

  15. Piberman

    What’s really extraordinary is that apparently for the first time the Norwalk BOE with the assistance of its first ever CFO and new Supt has attempted to compare operating expenses with a comparable school district. And this on top of taking the long overpaid NFT to arbitration successfully. Together we can celebrate the leadership of Mike Lyons as the pivotal force in these achievements. He’s demonstrated what one highly committed and competent individual can achieve in a leadership position. And by comparison the management of the other part of the City remains such an embarrassment where questions about comparative costs aren’t even on the agenda. Especially for our BET and Council where finance remains a difficult subject. Imagine what’s possible to achieve in City Hall with comparable competence. But that’s day dreaming – an impossible dream. The BOE does Norwalk proud. Not so City Hall. Maybe some day in the distant future we can also be proud of City Hall’s management.

  16. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record (again), Mr. Berman:
    .
    After I left Columbia University, I became a public school teacher. I supplemented my Ph.D. from Columbia (in political sociology) with a Masters of Science (in literacy) from the City University. I am now a part-time professor in the Social Sciences Department at NCC.

    Also, a number of months ago, I contacted you directly about your tendency to personally attack people, to just make things up about them, and all you did was laugh it off and pretend that this was all some type of game that was not to be taken seriously. My apologies for taking your attacks seriously.
    .
    And finally (since I have never once seen you at a Board of Education or BET or Council meeting): Are you aware that minutes are brief and very partial summaries of discussions. They mainly deal with motions and votes.

  17. Bruce Kimmel

    I forgot: It was the Council’s idea to do the comparison between Norwalk and Danbury. The issue came up during the last budget cycle, when we were discussing the ECS formula and noticed the overall numbers for Danbury. Mr. McCarthy and I decided to pursue the issue further, and the Board did an excellent analysis.

  18. Mary

    Can anyone elaborate on how Danbury’s move to project based learning affects cost’s, comprehension and ultimately results? http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Danbury-High-School-to-do-away-with-finals-exams-5465401.php

  19. srb

    kudos to Kimmel for standing up for people who volunteer for the community, spend countless hours on behalf of others and then are attacked as dupes or fools. The comparison is valuable, but Danbury jobs don’t compete directly with Norwalk, while Westport, Darien and Stamford jobs do. As a result, pay in Norwalk has to be competitive (Adam Smith economics). Norwalk may also have higher employee retention rates which arguably provides significant benefits. $ for donuts, a comparison w/White Plains which is also a similar size district that is about equidistant would likely make Norwalk seem cheap. Teachers in Westchester County earn at least 20% more than here. It’s helpful to have comparisons but the bottom line doesn’t necessarily say the whole story

  20. Oyster

    Ah, but srb, that wouldn’t fit the storyline or objectives of the folks who are bent on reducing pay for municipal workers, including teachers.

  21. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Berman, while it is laudable that the Dr. Rivera and his CFO are comparing costs to other cities, that isn’t the same thing as proposing actual reductions in the BOE’s overall budget, something that will never happen. Without reductions in the giant BOE budget, taxpayers will never see a reduction in their taxes.

  22. LWitherspoon

    @Bruce Kimmel / Mike Lyons
    How many hours were required to make the comparison? Is it practical to add Stamford to have another point of reference?

  23. LWitherspoon

    Is there any explanation for why Norwalk spends $3.3 million on “consulting services” related to special education while Danbury spends only $500k?

  24. Bruce Kimmel

    Rich Rudl did most of the work and I believe it did take a fair amount of time. Stamford would be nice for comparative purposes, we’ll see what we can do. Regarding the special education consulting services: Everything about special education in Norwalk seems to be out of line in terms of cost because of the absence of proper facilities and programs required by state and federal law. The 2014-15 BOE operating budget, for the first time, has money to begin planning how to address all of our special education costs, especially out of district tuition, and related costs, such as consulting.

  25. LWitherspoon

    @Bruce Kimmel
    .
    Thank you. The $3.3 million in “consulting services” caught my interest because it sounds like a large and perhaps poorly understood expense. Certainly it’s poorly understood by me. Past experience in business has taught me that consulting can mean just about anything under the sun and it’s easy for waste to hide under the guise of “consulting”. I am grateful for your efforts to ensure that our tax dollars are spent as responsibly as possible.
    .
    Perhaps a more detailed comparison of Danbury and Norwalk’s Special Education spending would yield more ideas for saving money.

  26. Piberman

    The budget comparisons are landmark actions within the BOE and serve to highlight the previous Boards’ limitations. And that of our Central Office. The real underlying issue here is whether local governance can provide services affordable to a community whose per capita incomes have changed little over the past two decades. So far the BOE is commendably beginning to address that question. But it’s not on the agenda of either the Council or the BET.
    Hope springs eternal.

  27. Piberman

    To Bruce Kimmel:

    That Norwalk has the highest cost of municipal services/salaries in CT and 5th highest teacher salaries in CT speaks for itself about the financial competence of its Council, BET and Mayor over recent decades with paltry per capita income growth. Years of stagnant property values, endless delays in redevelopment and reluctance of business to invest here other than in rental housing speak directly to the fiscal competence of our elected and appointed officials. In well run communities officials create an affordable environment. In Norwalk they complain about being criticized.

    Would our neighboring communities elect a Council Finance Committee Head and BET who didn’t have a strong financial background ? Only in Norwalk can anyone serve in any capacity and we have the results to show for it – a troubled City not attractive to new entrants save renters.

    Finance is a challenging subject for most people Mr Kimmel. Without detailed experience in financial decision making and understanding budgets how can the job of managing oversight of the City’s finances be done competently ? Best if you step down as Council Finance Chair. That position properly belongs to a member with a strong finance background. It’s not for a former teacher. Wouldn’t you agree ?

  28. srb

    Penny-wise and $ foolish. There may be overspending by the BOE, but comparing Norwalk salaries to the State is in error. Norwalk salaries should be compared to a 30 mile radius since that’s the area it competes with. Undermining the school system will more quickly erode property prices than high taxes. If Norwalk can be perceived as a first rate urban school environment your 400k house will quickly appreciate to 600k or more. It’s schools that drive value. PTECH, Global Studies, Columbus Magnet etc…have the potential of creating those perceptions. If you really want to help keep property values up and taxes down-get invovled, be a mentor, help a clean up, donate–participate

  29. LWitherspoon

    @srb
    .
    Can you cite any evidence for your claim that lower spending on schools will more quickly erode property prices than high taxes?
    .
    Even if you can, nobody is arguing for lower spending on schools. I for one would be happy if the schools could simply get by with the same amount of money next year as they did this year.
    .
    It would seem that the best of all worlds would be a school system that provides the same high level of services that it has been providing, but without the yearly cost increases as far as the eye can see. Taxpayers subsidized yearly raises for municipal employees through the entire Great Recession. At the same time a substantial portion of the taxpayers footing the bill for said raises were themselves unemployed, underemployed, or considering themselves lucky to have a job with zero income growth. Was that fair?

  30. srb

    Firstly, many districts had some form of freeze through the great recession. Teacher contracts are generally 3 years in duration and many districts had a freeze for at least one year if not more. Many districts also cut staff, including Norwalk. I don’t teach in Norwalk but know that many people would prefer to teach in neighboring districts where it’s perceived as “easier” to teach. If you want to hire and retain quality personnel you have to pay them comparable or better than competing districts. I’ve been told that Stamford pays higher than some neighboring districts for that very reason. Much of the school budget increases come about due to mandates, such as special ed. Darien tried to cut its increases in spending on Special Ed. and ended up with a State investigation as well as a lot of bodies lying on the ground. As for values, just look at Bridgeport v. Fairfield, Norwalk v. Westport or Darien. People move to Darien, Westport and New Canaan because of the schools. In fact Darien has the highest percentage of school age children as a ratio of its population of any municipality in Ct. We all know people who’ve moved from Norwalk because of school perception, the relocaters tend to be high achievers from stable high income families that are often less expensive to teach. Norwalk need to find ways to promote its scholastic achievements (there are lots of people who succeed in this district . My house if in Darien, Fairfield or Westport would have the same taxes as it has now but based on its size, location etc…would be worth 2 to 3 times more than its Norwalk value. Undermine the schools and you’ll pay a hefty price.

  31. LWitherspoon

    @srb
    .
    Yes, Darien, Westport, and New Canaan have excellent schools. But where is the evidence that spending less on education erodes property values faster than high taxes? I see nothing in your comment that proves your earlier statement. We could double our spending on education and I don’t think we would have the climate that exists in those ‘desirable’ districts because as you pointed out there’s a lot more at play than just money. There is also the question of what quantifiable benefit we’re achieving by paying teachers substantially more than other districts, if in fact that’s what we’re doing.
    .
    With respect to freezes – after a giant battle that went to arbitration the Norwalk teachers union was forced to accept a wage freeze for one (1) year, although I believe step raises were still awarded. While a remarkable achievement for the BoE, that’s nowhere NEAR the level of financial pain that the average Norwalk taxpayer experienced during the Great Recession.
    .
    In the end the question is never so black and white as should we pay teachers more or less, or should we spend more or less tax dollars on education. It comes down to what’s reasonable. Part of figuring out what is reasonable involves looking at what the rest of the market is doing. So let’s cheer the Common Council Finance Committee, the Board of Ed, Mike Lyons, Supt. Rivera, and others as they look for data points that might help Norwalk Schools do more with less.
    .
    I do find it remarkable that despite the disparity between Norwalk and Danbury costs of living, Norwalk appears to pay an entry-level teacher less than Danbury. How can that be? Why is Norwalk underpaying new teachers and paying so much more to older teachers?

  32. Lisa Thomson

    @LWitherspoon Why is Norwalk underpaying new teachers and paying so much to older teachers? Answer: Four plus decades of Bruce Mellion, with the last two decades as NFT Head. Norwalk’s teacher salary schedule needs adjusting.

  33. Piberman

    Lisa:
    Why blame unions for our high teacher salaries ? Unions work for their members. Who is working for taxpayers ? That’s the other part of the negotiations. Lack of plain old competence on the part of City elected officials and former BOE’s readily explain our 5th highest teacher salaries. The remedy is to elect more competent elected officials. Ones who understand budgets and finance. That’s problematic for Norwalk. No other surrounding community appoints a former school teacher to head its Council Finance Committee. Or citizens without financial backgrounds to the BET. Mr. Mellion has no trouble standing head and shoulders above City negotiators. He does his job. And shouldn’t be criticized for being competent. Criticize City officials for not fulfilling their responsibilities to taxpayers. If you want relief.

  34. Lisa Thomson

    Peter,
    Absolutely. Bruce Mellion has been a rocket scientist negotiator compared to previous BOEs. However, Mike Lyons has raised that bar and all Norwalkers should be thankful. I expect more balanced negotiations going forward.

  35. anonymous

    Why underpay new teachers and overpay older ones, how’s that smart or fair?

  36. piberman

    To all those commentators claiming that school districts should pay according to cost of living:

    If that was indeed the case the 5 surrounding towns and Greenwich would have by far the highest teacher salaries in the state. But that’s not the case for the obvious reason that most teachers live outside their high income districts citing housing prices. That’s not the case here in Norwalk because our teachers reject living here owing to the high property taxes required to support their high incomes.

    The guiding rule in any well run community is paying public union salaries affordable to local residents income. Or what can be secured from state as for our welfare cities. Norwalk officials
    have utterly ignored through sheer neglect or possibly incompetence the connection beween union salaries and incomes. For evidence consider 55% City spending hikes versus only 10% income gains over the past 2 decades.

    To my esteemed Councilmen Kimmel:

    Do you really think any of our surrounding towns would have a Councilman with a public school teaching background Chair a Finance Committee ? Do you really think that a public school teaching background would qualify an individual to oversee a $300 million budget in a private firm ? Do you really think that your public school teaching background and Council experience would qualify you as a Financial Expert Witness for the Court ? The issue is not whether your a fine fellow but whether you’re qualified (with your committee) to make appropriate financial oversight decisions for the City. Simply ask whom among your Committee has had primary oversight of a $300 million dollar budget in the public or private sectors. Its an old football coach adage: “If you don’t have the chickens, you can’t play the game”. Norwalk doesn’t have the chickens and hasn’t had the chickens for quite some time. Our surrounding towns have the chickens on their Finance Committees. That’s why we have the 5th highest paid teachers in the state. Because we don’t have the financial chickens in City government. Of course, there is a solution.

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