Despite calls for more town support and backing from some Board of Finance members, New Canaan Library is set to receive not a penny more next year than it’s getting this year in taxpayer dollars, $1,936,882.
The zero increase would put library alone among town-supported agencies, despite a plea from interim co-director Susan LaPerla Tuesday night for the town to recognize and appreciate the library through a bump even of 1.5 percent.
“The staff I think deserves recognition from the town of New Canaan,” LaPerla said during the finance board’s meeting at the New Canaan Nature Center (see video), citing among other reasons the library staff’s service and extra man hours during Hurricane Irene and its ugly aftermath.
More than 100 residents packed the room at the start of the meeting and most stayed throughout.
The most emotionally charged item was thought to have been the widely discussed Board of Education operating budget request—a matter that has yielded calls for support from the schools and a strong response from New Canaan’s highest-elected official.
Yet despite some squabbling, the Town Council is set to receive for final approval a proposed budget for next year that’s very similar to what finance officials had planned to send along in the first place.
A handful of residents voiced strong opinions on planned reductions to funds that New Canaan Public Schools had been seeking for next year.
Some advocates for the district spoke in favor of tapping local expertise to preserve programs expected to land on the chopping block.
Michelle Orr, who identified herself as a public school parent, said, “Without our schools performing at the levels that they do, all of our property values would take a huge hit.”
Other attendees at the late meeting spoke out against more spending. That group included Michael Nowacki, who cited a lack of transparency from the district in revenues—a thought echoed in a different manner later on during the meeting by finance board member John Sheffield.
In the end, the finance board approved $77,939,705 for the Board of Ed’s operating budget for next year (with a small allocation essentially transferring to that line item from capital spending).
The town’s total spending following the Board of Finance’s handling would come to about $132 million—but it was discussion around two much smaller items that drew audible reaction from attendees.
Finance board member Judy Neville described the town’s planned non-increase for the library as “a little harsh.”
Referring to the library’s usefulness during and after Hurricane Sandy, finance board member Colleen Baldwin said, “Certainly they more than pulled their weight in becoming a true town support center.”
In addition to the library’s request for more funding, the finance board voted down a request to add $25,000 back to Human Services Agencies spending that would make full-time a contracted counselor at New Canaan High School who advises students there seeking help with issues related to their home lives, alcohol, drugs and other matters.
Though teachers, nonprofit leaders and administrators spoke out on behalf of the “Teen Talk” program, finance officials ultimately voted down the additional allocation, saying the Town Council could take it up with more specific information in-hand.