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.”