It may have been one of the shortest budget public hearings the Legislative Council has hosted, but its four participants brought the same degree of passion and advocacy for the school district budget proposal as dozens have in previous years.
The four residents, plus Interim Superintendent John Reed, spent a total of about ten minutes Wednesday evening relating their support for the district’s spending plan, and calling for the council to move the budget request to referendum with no further reductions.
Saying she was presenting a spending plan that the Board of Education believes “helps us meet our budget goals,” which in part, plan “for the future needs of the Newtown public school system,” board Chair Debbie Leidlein reviewed a number of points in the proposal that will face further Board of Finance deliberation in the coming days.
Newtown’s school and municipal officials have a new piece to fit into the town’s annual budget puzzle this year — a new priority, a new expense, a new conundrum. As the town transitions from the various ad hoc arrangements it established in the wake of 12/14 to better secure local schools, the Board of Education, at the urging of First Selectman Pat Llodra, has proposed a security budget totaling just under $3 million that is separate from the school board’s proposed $71.5 million operating budget for 2014-15.
At one point late in the Board of Selectmen’s 2014-15 budget deliberations, Selectman James Gaston, Sr, observed, “You have to be disciplined when times are good and you have to be disciplined when times are bad.”
His comment came as he and fellow Selectman Will Rodgers along with First Selectman Pat Llodra prepared to move a municipal budget request to the Board of Finance representing a 0.3 percent overall increase above the current year.
For the second meeting in a row, Board of Finance Joe Kearney spent time reviewing school enrollment and budget trends. While most of the core data he reviewed was the same as information Mr Kearney initially presented on January 23, he did adjust the coming year’s data to accommodate the 0.75 percent increase that Interim Superintendent John Reed requested from the Board of Education during a meeting on the same evening.
The opening session of the Board of Selectmen’s 2013-14 budget deliberations were as much an analysis of municipal spending over the past seven years as it was a review of anticipated spending for the upcoming fiscal cycle.
Newtown begins 2014 next week with more momentum and resolve than any turning of the New Year we can remember. Coming off a year in which stock-taking was a daily priority and not simply saved for last days of December, the community is primed to get started.
For a little more than an hour during their October 24 meeting, members of the finance board, Acting School Superintendent John Reed and Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein conducted a candid discussion about the upcoming budget process. Finance board Chairman John Kortze said he had asked the school officials to visit with his board early on in the process.