The Norwalk Board of Education voted 7-2 to increase the amount of money in its 2011-12 budget request to 4.25 percent over last year's budget. At the special meeting Tuesday night, school board member Jody Bishop-Pullan put forth a resolution to raise its budget request to the city to $156.7 million.
This request represents a nearly 1 percent increase over Superintendent Susan Marks's reluctantly recommended budget increase of 3.32 percent. "Our responsibility as a board is to advocate for what our district needs," said Bishop-Pullan, who discussed the proposal with Marks before the meeting. "We can't sacrifice the safety and education of our children." Before the meeting, several parents and community members expressed a similar sentiment and asked the board to not vote for the budget as it was initially presented.
"I agree 100 percent," said board member Steve Colarossi. "We need to be fiscally responsible but educationally sound." Board members Sue Haynie and Migdalia Rivas voted against the resolution.
School board Chairman Jack Chiaramonte said, "Nothing is set in stone until the city gives us their number." He was referring to the process in which the school board presents a budget request to the city. The Common Council then reviews the request and sets a cap or limit on the school spending for the fiscal next year. Chiaramonte urged parents and community members to advocate for the schools at meetings of the Common Council and the Board of Estimation & Taxation.
Haynie who voted against the increase because she said the board's request should reflect the city's anticipated increase of 2 percent to 3 percent. "The city has told us what we would get."
Mark called herself a "practical" person and said that whether the increase was 3.32 percent or 4.25 percent, a budget shortfall remains. "Even in the best scenario, we are still going to have to roll up our sleeves and make reductions."
Should the Norwalk schools get a larger budget increase? Are you willing to pay for that through higher taxes? Leave a comment below.
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