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First Selectman: ‘I’m Worried about a Storming of the Bastille Tonight’

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi says he's concerned that misinformed parents will crowd a meeting at the New Canaan Police Department tonight, expecting that they'll have a chance to comment on the school budget.

 

New Canaan’s highest-elected official said Tuesday that he’s concerned about a “storming of the Bastille” by public school parents following an email from the Board of Education seeking a show of support at a public meeting where there’s no room for public comment.

“I need to remind everyone that by Charter, by custom, by tradition in this town, public comment is reserved for the last Board of Finance meeting, which is March 12,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said (see video).

Just 52 people are allowed by fire code in the meeting room at the New Canaan Police Department, site of a 7:30 p.m. special meeting of the Board of Finance.

It’s not unusual for the Board of Ed to push back, as it is this year, when officials seek to reduce the amount of money requested from the town. The organized effort to galvanize public schools parents, via an email sent Monday, is a little more unusual. The school board’s letter, attached as a PDF, breaks down its $78.8 million operating budget request and makes a case for full approval.

“I’m worried when I read these emails about the potential for a storming of the Bastille tonight, for lack of a better phrasing,” Mallozzi said.

Roy A. Abramowitz March 05, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Please have the Board of Ed explain if $4.5 million of funds from the special Ed fund did in fact get transferred to a general fund. Is this fact or a rumor? IS fact what was the funds used for if not for educating special needs children. If fact transfer the funds back from the general fund to the Bd of ED Special Ed Fund and decrease your budget demands by $4.5 million. What ever happened to the formation of an audit cmttee? I understand the town's current auditors cited this specific item as an inherent breakdown and lack of internal control!
Jon S. March 05, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Too often, our Town Hall gets public input too late. Things work their way through various commissions and boards, a little at a time, with public input limited only to the piece of the pie each specific commission holds. So when it comes time to make the bigger decision, it’s too late to change the course of the ship, even if it’s heading toward an iceberg. Town Hall says, “you had your chance,” and the public says, “when? where?” because no one ever got a chance to comment or discuss the real issue, only the minutiae that supported it. We elected the Board of Education to keep our schools strong, and their letter shows they take that role seriously. They don’t tell people to show up and speak out, they ask people to attend to simply show their support. It’s their right to ask, and it’s our right to attend.
Angie S. March 05, 2013 at 04:32 PM
And if these "concerned parents" are paying attention to Board of Finance meetings on channel 79, they should also know that it's not a $2 million cut to the BoE budget. That is a reduction of the amount of INCREASES REQUESTED by BoE. BoE is not being cut; their budget is still growing quite significantly. BoF is simply asking them to grow it by a smaller amount. Everyone has to cut back, and I don't see why BoE should be the exception to get 100% of what they ask for when EVERYONE else has to make do with less than 100% of what they ask for.
Angie S. March 05, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Where are all the "fair share" --- "everyone must share in the pain" --- people now? And, oh look, Obamacare hasn't done a thing to rein in rising healthcare costs, has it?
Old Timer March 05, 2013 at 04:53 PM
New Canaan has a long history of supporting their school system. Prior BOF's have been tough, but fair. It does not feel that way this year. Share in the pain? Look back at what the Board of Ed has done for the last 5 years. They have pushed off a lot of critical capital projects and kept their budgets to a minimum over this period. Now there are critical capital projects that need to be addressed. Additionally, there are annual salary and benefit increases. There are also state mandates that the school system needs to address or be in violation of state laws. There is no more waste left to ring out of the school budget without it impacting the student's education. And we all know how our educational ranking impacts property values.
Glen K Dunbar March 05, 2013 at 05:13 PM
I got my own problems right now. I will not be attending I got to figure out how to hide some money from the Probate and Nursing Home folks
NewCanaanBill March 05, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Three years ago I had the same thoughts as you do about the company I work for. We were asked to cut (a real cut, not inflation adjusted) and I felt there was no waste left to cut. After the cuts there were more cuts. The most surprising thing is the company operates better now and is more profitable than ever. The cuts were necessary for the company to compete. New Canaan schools do not have to address any drastic slashing, they just get less goodies this year. Be a team player and work with the rest of the town.
Valid Concern March 05, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Why not move the meeting to a location that could allow for more of our taxpaying citizens to attend the scheduled meeting? Possibly the at the high school in the Wagner Room or in the HS or MS auditorium? The Wagner room has the ability to record the meetings as well a much larger capacity. Why has the Patch not covered as a news story the BOF proposed reduction to the recommended BOE increase for the current year? If more information had been provided by the news media overall, there would be less need for email blasts to let our entire community know the impacts of these decisions. The parents especially have a right to be concerned given the possible cuts due to the gap between the increase that was requested by the BOE and the one that was recommended by the BOF.
Cobie Graber March 05, 2013 at 05:44 PM
I understand that in these tough economic times that we have to make difficult choices. That said, in light of annual salary and benefit increases and state mandates, the cuts raise a red flag. That is not to say that we cannot sharpen our pencils, but the public deserves an opportunity to brainstorm ways to further tighten the budget without negatively impacting the high quality of education, which directly correlates to property values. Not to mention that actual versus projected enrollment numbers are alarming. As our great town attracts new residents, the stress on our near-capacity schools is worrisome. Are there any plans to hire a consultant with a proven track record for projecting enrollment? Or to expand or build schools? Will there still be time to consider input provided at the March 12th meeting or is it a formality?
Old Timer March 05, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Bill, the problem is that the school budget has cut and cut again for five years in a row. In 2008, didn't the BOF and TC manage to keep the budget flat? You can't do that every year. Janitorial staff has been cut, buses have been cut, projects put off. Eventually, it will come down to cutting teachers...and I think that we are at that point. You would have to show me evidence that increased class size can make NC Public schools operate better. Also, let's be careful of comparing businesses to the school system...what is the equivalent to running one of the best Special Ed programs in the state at your company?
Great Good March 05, 2013 at 05:54 PM
One other point from the Patch video, why is tonight's BOF meeting not being televised on Channel 79 and instead being streamed live on the town website? Does any of this seem odd - small meeting room, not televised on Channel 79, not much reporting on last week's BOF meeting?
Doug March 05, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Good question on why the Patch hasn't covered this story. Let's see if everyone can put it together. Maybe it is the same reason that there are no negative stories about the new Taj Hall...or is it Town Majal?
Ade March 05, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Helpful hint, Glen. If you are hiding money and have secret girlfriends you might not want to mention it on Patch. Not really much of a secret here.
James March 05, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Old Timer, In 2008 the Board of Ed received a 5.48% increase. The next year they got a 5.89% increase. They always get what they want. But times are changed now. No longer can we afford to give them a blank check. And these state mandates are questionable at best. Global citizens. Teaching character? I'm ready to pull my kids out of this school system if they continue to try and replace the parents and the family role in bringing up our kids. This is Danger with a capital "D". And if you watched last night's BOE meeting, the BOE said nothing about cutting administrative positions. That building on Locust is so top heavy I'm surprised it hasn't fallen over! I, for one, support the Board of Finance for making the schools accountable. I've never seen that happen in this town.
TH March 05, 2013 at 07:13 PM
We've gone through one of the worst recessions in the country's history and it hit the financial services industry hard. I don't know the percentage, but a lot of people that I know in this town work in financial services and we've seen nothing but budget cuts and lower pay. When is the last time the New Canaaan budget actual decreased year over year? My guess is never. Probably holds true for the majority of municipalities. We've all had to tighten our belts, lets see a 2-5% reduction in the overall budget for a change. And forget this new town hall... who needs it? I'd like to tear down my house and build a shiny new one, but it's not in my personal budget, but that's right, taxpayers have to live within their means, tax collectors don't.
Great Good March 05, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Must be nice to unburdened by the facts. The increases in the school budget for last 4 years plus the current year's 5.7% increase (if approved), when averaged, is still lower than than the average increases of other areas schools. Incidentally those other schools that have lower average increases, have also been experiencing declining enrollment, while our enrollment has been steady or increasing. There is no blank check and no simple roll forward and just add on extra increases.
Stuart Pratt March 05, 2013 at 09:35 PM
“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” ― Thomas Jefferson Or....If you get all your news from the local on-line rags, most current events and real news topics will surprise you. Stay active and educated about your community and you will not likely feel that our elected officials are always hiding facts from the public.
Kerry Smith March 05, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Looks like the public comment opportunity on 3/12 is a great opportunity to ask the BOE to more fully disclose their "emotional learning" and "global citizenship" initiatives and how much of their budget is earmarked to supporting this overhaul of our kids' curriculum -- and what will be required financially and practically to fully implement it.
Ade March 05, 2013 at 10:34 PM
It won't be a great opportunity to as the BOE anything as it is a BOF meeting.
Kendall L Owott March 05, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Stuart Pratt, here is what you said in January: "Thank you for the indroduction of a new concept in our town..."Transparent Government"! It is truly refreshing not having to wait for Thursday's paper to catch a blurb about what might be going on in town hall. Cheers!" Of course, it is better to be aware through multi-media but Patch has been a citizens' forum and not a mouthpiece for The Establishment. Has something changed? Why do you feel this way now? Do you feel Patch has changed?
Drama Mama March 05, 2013 at 11:51 PM
It is time for the PARENTS and TAX PAYERS to look at the proposed BOE budget cuts and have a period of PUBLIC COMMENT. Clearly, allowing all parties to have a say at this point would be prudent. In these still turbulent economic times, it is hard to swallow a New Town Hall AND mandated salary increases, when many of the tax payers haven't seen a salary increase in a few years.
Drama Mama March 05, 2013 at 11:52 PM
good point! Not so sure "emotional learning and global citizenship" should trump existing programs being cut!
Glen K Dunbar March 06, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Actually a more important topic if I may politely request and state. Glen's bail out of how Glen has been victimized and UN-loved his WHOLE life to the point He does not want to go on. figure out a way to bail poor Glen out.
Jim Pickering March 06, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Maybe the meeting on March 12th should be moved to Saxe Middle school?
Glen K Dunbar March 06, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Morning Mikey. How goes it $$$ little buddy?? Have not seen you around here of late. Hope you are well and all that legal nonsense you were put through has given you a full pardon which You deserve. For me?? Life stinks as always. As for this meeting?? Umm. I kind of feel the cost of computers should not be put on the tax payers. Moreover, students who can't afford a portable computer (like me..I can't afford a cup of tea most days. thanks New Canaan) should NOT have to be forced to buy one. What happened to the old school of learning.
Lisa Buchman (Editor) March 06, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Thanks for your comments, Mike. Anyone else go to the meeting? What's your take—on the technology presentation, on departmental budgets and cost containments, other issues?
Cobie Graber March 06, 2013 at 03:40 PM
I tried to attend the meeting, but there was no room and no way to hear. When I went home to listen, the streaming audio quality was poor and, even on the loudest volume, sound went in and out. I am disappointed that the meeting was not broadcast on television and that the room was so small in light of the public interest in attending. That said, I applaud the BOF for watching the bottom line. In these economic times, it is prudent to revisit every line item and brainstorm with the community ways to save. The BOE has a very difficult year because of promised increases that the BOF had a hand in approving. As the Town Hall project demonstrates, putting off maintenance costs the town in the long run. Let's not let our schools crumble. Do we really care about a guard at the front door when we may have portables in the near future? I have faith in Dr. Kolek and our BOE, and know that working together we can find ways to maintain our high quality of education and, in turn, high property values.
Great Good March 06, 2013 at 04:51 PM
There were numerous parents in attendance, many of whom had to stand in the room for 4 hours to listen to the meeting, or sit on the floor because no seating was made available. I heard that the other town meeting that night, which was held at the Nature Center, and televised on channel 79, was the Planning and Zoning meeting. When our town officials started receiving numerous emails of concern, about parents, they knew full well that many parents would try to attend these meetings. Why was the location of the meeting not switched to the Nature Center, or instead moved to the Wagner Room, which also has recording availability? Maybe the meeting could then have been televised on the town's education channel, Channel 78, so the rest of our community could see and hear what was discussed. Board of Finance and Town Council Members: Please plan ahead for the remaining school budget meetings so that they are held in rooms that can accommodate the community be televised on cable? Parents will be attending!
Ade March 06, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Great Good - You will be better served by sending this request directly to the BOF, TC and BOE.
Great Good March 08, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Excellent idea!

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