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To the Editor:

In my letter to The Bee dated April 4th, I tried bringing to light some important factors I wanted the taxpaying Newtowners to consider when voting on the BOE Budget. Apparently, I struck a chord with the Chairman of the BOF who does not share my evaluation. For clarification and contrast, I will again provide the reasoning that led me to the conclusion that the BOE budget increase should not pass. I would also like to thank former First Selectman Dan Rosenthal for pointing out all the significant inaccuracies and deflections in Mr Gaston’s letter.

As a member of the Legislative Council, my first and foremost responsibility is to Newtown’s taxpayers. I attended the BOF and LC meetings when the BOE presented, and caucused with my colleagues to materially understand what comprised the budget. The last thing I wanted to do was to get “caught in the weeds” by going through the budget line by line especially, since we don’t have the authority to make line-item deductions. Instead, I wanted to find out what was affordable to the average taxpayer in Newtown before making any kind of commitment to the BOE. I did this by requesting a report from the tax assessor indicating how many Newtown residents are falling behind on their taxes. I called the food pantry to see how many families relied upon the pantry to put food on their table. I found that some students are being cut off from their school lunches because their accounts have become delinquent. I also listened to parents that told me that these tax increases are just not “sustainable.” The “false epiphanies” of Mr Gaston’s letter seem very true to actual taxpayers in Newtown. Sure, maybe he can afford another astronomical tax increase, but apparently there are some residents in Newtown who cannot.

The other side of the equation is our students’ education. I consider our students’ education paramount. Unlike Mr Gaston, I did some comparative analysis regarding our staffing. I researched some of the techniques used by school systems used to maintain budgets especially when enrollment is waning. Newtown’s enrollment has shrunk by over 1750 students in the past 20 years, yet Newtown’s taxpayers have suffered budget increases every year. Over the last two years, the BOE has over budgeted by over $1MM which was not taken into consideration by Mr Gaston and which makes the 4.41% increase effectively higher.

I support responsible budgets grounded in the needs of the educational system in Newtown but also taking into account the ability of the taxpayers to afford tax increases in a difficult economic environment. School funding does impact student achievement IF the funds are appropriately allocated. Newtown is testing at a failing 64.9% so apparently, we are not. Until this changes, we are throwing good money away and perpetuating the problem.


Derek Pisani

Legislative Council, District 1

Writing on my own behalf.


A letter from Derek Pisani.
Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. phydeaux says:

    Is it not true, that school budgets, by LAW, cannot be reduced year to year, no matter the reason? If it was 1M at 1000 students, next year at 500 students, the budget MUST be 1M?

  2. ll says:

    Well said and thanks for doing what you were elected to do, instead of promoting an agenda.

  3. afiore321 says:

    I have seen Mr. Pisani repeatedly assert in the pages of the Bee that Newtown schools are “testing at a failing 64.9%”. I’d be curious if he could elaborate on this statistic, as I have been unable to verify it independently. Which test exactly is our school system failing? How do our schools compare to other towns? How does our score compare to historical measures? It’s very hard to draw conclusions from a single data point, so here are a few more data points to think about for context: Newtown is consistently ranked among the top 20 school districts in CT by the US News and World Report and Niche, which consider a range of performance metrics in their rankings; on average, Newtown students perform similar to, if not better than, students in neighboring school districts on standardized math and reading tests; the only data point on the CT Department of Education District Report Card where Newtown “fails” — that is, falls behind the state average — is access to art instruction. I’m glad the council member has acknowledged in this letter what taxpayers in high-performing (and high-spending) school districts like Darien, New Canaan, and Westport already know: “School funding does impact student achievement.” Please keep that in mind when you vote this week!

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