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Norwalk Mayor Promises Audit of School Budget

NORWALK, Conn. – An independent audit of the budget of the Norwalk Public Schools will be done, according to Mayor Richard Moccia.

Moccia's promise was one of the highlights of Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting. Other developments in the challenging quest to cut $9.9 million from the 2012-13 budget included an offer by Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, to meet with officials to "do the right thing for the community."

Here are some excerpts from the meeting:

• Bruce Mellion: "If as the mayor says, no one is at fault, there is no reason to point fingers, then let us move forward. There is a $9.9 million reconciliation, minus $2.2 million, leaving $7.7 million. That is $1.8 million, above the reconciliation point the board started at. I will meet with anyone, anytime, anyplace. I have said that for weeks. We have 11 days to get this done. In the best scenario, millions of dollars will still have to be reconciled and some jobs will be lost, but we can do better than where we are now. I am optimistic that we can accomplish what needs to be done. So let's get it done together, to do the right thing for the community and 11,000 students in Norwalk public schools."

• Jack Chiaramonte, chairman, Board of Education: "I am uplifted tonight by Mr. Mellion's remarks. I look forward to working with the board, with the mayor, with whoever, and Mr. Mellion, to see if we can get a better solution."

• Mike Lyons: "We are not in unique situation. This is happening all over the country. It's a consequence of being in the worst economy since the Great Depression. The federal stimulus money has dried up and gone away. The state is not giving us any additional funding. If we received the same average percentage of ECS funding from the state that the average city in our group receives, 28 percent instead of 7 percent, we would get $30 million a year more money than we receive now. That is the fundamental reason why we are here, because almost uniquely among the cities in the state of Connecticut, the legislature in Hartford has told Norwalk 'drop dead.' We have practically no growth in our grand list. We used to collect $8 million a year in conveyance taxes we now collect $1.5 million. We have to do a foreclosure sale every year downstairs to force people to pay their taxes so we can pay our bills. This is a terrible situation."

• Mike Barbis (to Wolfpit Elementary School parents and principal): "It's a numbers game in a sense. If you look at the average class size of Wolfpit relative to the other elementary schools, you have the smallest class size ... so when it came down to this policy trying to increase class size you got disproportionately impacted. It wasn't like you were targeted."

Moccia said the audit would not be done by the people who have been conducting internal audits.

Barbis spent time after the meeting discussing the matter with Wolfpit's principal, Frances Mahoney, who told him that the physical size of the classrooms is too small for increasing the number of students per class.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on a reconciliation budget Thursday evening. The meeting is set to begin at 7 in the Common Council chambers.

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