Norwalk Committee Recommends $311.3 Million Spending Plan

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Brien McMahon High School Principal Suzanne Brown Koroshetz spoke about school spending during a Norwalk Common Council subcommittee public hearing Thursday.
Brien McMahon High School Principal Suzanne Brown Koroshetz spoke about school spending during a Norwalk Common Council subcommittee public hearing Thursday. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – A battle appears to be looming for Tuesday when the Common Council is slated to set Norwalk’s spending cap for next year.

Following a public hearing Thursday night, the council’s Finance/Claims Committee voted to recommend the full council approve a spending plan of $311.3 million, the same amount that Finance Director Tom Hamilton endorsed earlier this month.

But only two members approved the plan Thursday during a committee vote, committee Chairperson Carvin Hilliard, a Democrat, and David McCarthy, a Republican. Three Democratic members, Matt Miklave, John Igneri and Warren Peña all abstained, because they and other council members said they were disappointed that city department heads were not present at the hearing to answer spending request questions. Republican committee members Doug Hempstead and Nick Kydes also were not present.

On Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the council chambers in City Hall, the Common Council is slated to vote on the spending cap.

The $311.3 million recommendation includes $163.7 million for the Board of Education, or about 2.7 percent above this year’s spending amount, but below the 3.4 percent increase the board requested. The school board’s request was $164.9 million, or $1.2 million higher.

Coming up with that extra $1.2 million could mean the difference between property taxes going up about $250 next year for the average taxpayer (with an annual bill of about $6,300) or about $282, or a difference of $32 for the year.  

Parents and school officials Thursday urged members of the council to put enough in the spending cap to essentially give the school board its $164.9 million, which will include money to implement the new Common Core Curriculum, which is mandated by the state. The city will also partially fund the requirements through capital appropriations.

“If we don’t do it right, Norwalk will fall behind other districts,” said Patrick Begos, co-president of the Brien McMahon Parents Club, speaking about the new curriculum. “It’s a two-year thing and then you’re done. I hope the council, Board of Estimate & Taxation and the Board of Education can come together to figure out how this can get done.”

Suzanne Brown Koroshetz, principal of Brien McMahon High School, said the new curriculum offers an exciting new direction for education not only in Norwalk but throughout the country. But she said it comes at a cost, which she hopes the city can overcome.

“In six years as principal, I’ve only been involved with budget cuts,” Brown Koroshetz said. “I’ve never had things put back into the budget.”

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Comments (11)

Regarding this statement in the article: "Three Democratic members, Matt Miklave, John Igneri and Warren Peña all abstained, because they and other council members said they were disappointed that city department heads were not present at the hearing to answer spending request questions." Just for the record, the Board of Education's department head (Interim Superintendent Daddona), and our COO (Elio Longo) WERE there and answered an extensive set of questions from the Council members.

Their presence was much appreciated, Chairman Lyons! There is the possibility some capital bonding funds may be released by the state for school safety measures. I urged Interim Superintendent Daddona to have a proposal ready when/if this "pot of bonding money" (per Sen. Beth Bye) is funded. I want Norwalk at the head of the line. I agree with him that $100,000 will likely be insufficient to implement the school security measures ultimately recommended by the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety. It couldn't hurt for these legislators to hear from Norwalk's BOE:

It sounds like an old record,why were the others not there has not been clearly defined.Lets make it clear a lot of us are disapointed our councilors are working hard on a large budget and all that seems the others are interested in is a sign off.The three that are mentioned are not taking orders from above they are there because we want accountability the taxpayers.I'm sorry I'm not privy to line items which ones do you think should be cut or ones that should be restored?We all need to feel the truth is working but since Norwalk has a history of rubber stamping calls from our councilors its nice to see a ripple in the Mayors pond.

Oddly, when I checked, it seems that department heads never come to this meeting. We've had the final budget for quite a while, and drafts for months; all committees have met in the last month. Any questions to department heads could have been asked and answered by now. I really fail to see any reason for not being prepared for the committee meeting last night.

Turning what has been a reasonable and honest approach to the budget into a political stunt is what creates distrust and causes the arguments that have lead to an inability to fund priorities in the past. The gap seems to be 400k, which I would argue could be found in a budget of this size, but perhaps the mayor, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Wilms will find an alternative method to close it by Tues

I may be responsible for the confusion on department heads attending or not attending.. Thinking about the issue later, I seem to recall the period between 2001-05, when the Council and the BET often held joint public hearings on the operating budget. I am fairly certain that department heads attended those meetings and often answered questions. In fact, we used to have two sign up sheets, one for BOE issues, one for "city" issues. I did not realize that my inaccurate statement would become a pretext for not voting on the cap motion last night. Going forward, though, I believe it would be a good idea for all department heads to attend these hearings so that they, too, have another chance to note the difficulties they face when their requests are cut. It would broaden the perspective of both Council members and the public.

Thanks, Bruce. I appreciate your willingness to apologize for accidentally causing confusion. And I'm sorry to see that Sonoknow thinks your integrity is questionable since you aren't caucusing with the Democrats. That says much more about Sono than it does about you.

Thankyou Bruce buts its ok you don't have to be honest or forthcoming your not a Democrat anymore replacing you is the only fact on our table now.

Wow, Sono. Your agenda is loud and clear.

I'm sorry if sounds like integrity is questionable.I actually find Bruce very passionate and smart on a lot of things,We also need street smart politicians who can lead a city and know what problems we as a city encounter daily.My goal is to go a week without gunshots or shootings and not run into any of my friends who own a business in the city and not hear about a break in at home or store or both in the same week.

How hard is it to have the entire council invloved in what goes on in a city they know so much about.We all talk about trust and now accountability give them the council the courtesy to see documents and not have to ask where page 3 6 9 are or read or see in the media things they should be well informed of in a timely manner.We are talking time sensitive information so if it happens on Friday we don't have to rely on them read about it Thursday in the Hour.

Why has so many things been a secret in the city when it comes to developers and good the old boys club?

lets just admit city hall has run out of red herrings and the ability to hide expenses has become harder in all budgets.Yes tempers have esculated on the floor of the council.most members the for the most part were sent by taxpayers who have had enough and are just as angry.There are so many things in this city that need to go under the glass might as well start with the schools.Not having checks and balances for years has now come to a halt and no one likes it at city hall but those paying taxes it seem to embrace it.

Political stunts are from the Repblican camp and if the Democrats decided its the way to go well God loves them for it.

Those who have been insulted or mistreated have not said anything about the political stunts you refer too..