NORWALK, Conn. – Barbara Smyth looked on the bright side as dusk fell Wednesday over City Hall after what some were calling a disappointing decision by Norwalk's Board of Estimate and Taxation.
"While I would have liked $1.8 million, that would have really helped, considering where the BET was a couple of weeks ago, adamant that they would not give the schools more. They did come through with something," said Smyth, a Norwalk mother and unemployed teacher who had worked to bring hundreds of sign-waving demonstrators to City Hall's lawn yet again.
The BET voted unanimously – during an 18-minute-long meeting – to approve a resolution to provide another $1.4 million to the Board of Education to help cover a $4 million deficit that was discovered in mid-May. That was done by extending repayment of $3.1 million in insurance fund money to 2014-15 and by approving the transfer of $500,000 to the Board of Education. That money was found to be a surplus in this year's Board of Education budget.
That was "better than nothing," Smyth said. "It's a little disappointing, but that does tell me that they are hearing the parents. I am thankful for that."
The Board of Education, which was facing $5.9 million cuts after the Common Council set a spending cap in March, is now dealing with $6.3 million in cuts. That is down from the $10 million in cuts expected after the deficit was uncovered.
"This is a compromise, trying to work with all the parties involved to assist the Board of Education in difficult times," Mayor Richard Moccia said. "Appreciate all the turnout from the parents, the kids, everything."
He said he still had a city to run, with the other 47 percent of the budget. "When I hear we don't need our parks, we don't need fireworks, we don't need Calf Pasture and all of that – there are still many people in this city that pay their taxes and want a full and healthy life, just like you do," he said to the crowd of 200 people.
The Board of Education will vote Thursday night on a reconciliation plan presented by Superintendent Susan Marks on Tuesday, based on the $1.4 million figure, which is was what she had expected. "The board will make the final decision. They know what the bottom line is," she said.
Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, who lives in New York, said, "I think the thing that's reprehensible is that there won't be any public comment tomorrow night. Our concern is that it's going to be a rubber-stamping of what Dr. Marks has proposed, and we don't think that's the best way to do it. We believe there's better ways to do it, in the best name of children."
He said, "We're working on some things" but would not elaborate.
Liz Morelli, a parent who demonstrated before the meeting, also said she was unhappy at the lack of public comment. "I think that they don't want to hear what we have to say," she said.