NORWALK, Conn. – Educators could have a little more money to work with next year, Norwalk Common Council members said Monday after studying the Board of Education’s proposed spending plan for the 2013-14 school year.
The board is seeking a 3.4 percent spending increase next year, or nearly $5.5 million more than this year to bring the request to $164.9 million. The proposed budget attempts to restore some of the items and positions lost last year when the school system discovered a $4 million financial shortfall that led to some drastic cuts.
During a joint meeting of council’s and board’s finance committees, called by Council President Doug Hempstead, council members appeared to be amenable to the board’s spending request, but they did not endorse the measure. The council will have final say on the amount the board receives but does not recommend how the money should be spent.
“I’m generally comfortable with the request because they’re able to better explain it,” Hempstead said following the two-hour-plus long meeting where interim Superintendent Tony Daddona and other education officials presented the spending plan. “It’s in range of what some were thinking.”
Hempstead was quick to add that city officials still do not know how much money Norwalk will receive from the state to help offset education and other expenses next year, which means school and other spending proposals could potentially mean a tax increase for residents.
“What I’ve been told is that if all our departments receive what they want taxes could go up 5.5 to 6 percent,” Hempstead said. “So, we’re all very cognizant of that, which could lead to some tough decisions.”
Council member Jerry Petrini agreed. “It’s very difficult for us to fund this budget when we’re still waiting to hear from the state,” he said.
Overall, many of the 11 council members at the meeting appeared to be impressed with the depth with which the education officials explained the rationale behind the spending request. Daddona explained that the board heard from numerous parents on the priorities for the budget, including bringing in additional library aides at the elementary level.
“I think it’s fair and in line,” said council Majority Leader Michelle Maggio. “No one wants to see anyone lose jobs.”