John Engel

Recent Articles

‘We Will Have To Make Some Hard Decisions’: District Officials Address $1 Million Reduction to Budget Request

The Board of Education in proposing its original 2.76 percent operating budget increase already had factored in year-over-year reductions in spending on employee benefits, contracted services and supplies, officials said last week. Now that the district is faced with, at most, a 1.6 percent operating increase for next year—following a $1 million reduction to its $88.6 million proposal by the Board of Finance—the schools will “have to look at everything,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told members of the Town Council at their March 15 regular meeting. Since the superintendent’s own original proposed budget increase, the school board went “through the process initially of reducing and making some tough choices about initiatives and programs coming in, so we have to get back to the table and really take a hard look at everything that we have and make some decisions.”

“We will continue to keep an eye on insurance as best we can, but ultimately I will be sitting with the administrative team, we will look at everything with the Board of Education and share with them some options and decisions. It is premature to say specifically ‘this program’ and that program’ but it is going to be our responsibility is to look at it.”

The comments come as the district looks at a $1.38 million increase to its budget—and it may be less, as the Town Council has the ability to reduce it further (though not to add to it)—while it’s contractually required to pay $1.76 million more to employees (mostly teachers). Councilman John Engel asked Luizzi at the meeting: “Where is this cut going to come from?”

“Do you think that it’s fair to say electives are going to be the first things to look at? Continue Reading →

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‘It’s Nice To See Kids Maintaining Their Childhood’: Saxe Middle School Principal Defends $200,000 Request for New Playground Equipment

When playground equipment was purchased a dozen years ago for Saxe Middle School with about $125,000 in privately raised funds, many in town debated whether the gear would be used by the students there at all, Principal Greg Macedo said Wednesday night. Yet today, it sees regular use not only among fifth- and sixth-graders, according to Macedo, but also from seventh- and eighth-graders. That’s partly for reasons of status—the older kids like to run out and get on the playground equipment first—and partly because students rotate from there during outdoor recess to a playing field and on to a game of tag, Macedo told members of the Town Council at their regular meeting. “Remember now we are talking about middle-schoolers, so ‘free play’ in their mind is socialization—before maybe physical education, or even recreation,” Macedo said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “So oftentimes you will see students climb the equipment and then want to stay there to socialize.”

The comments came during an opening round of budget discussions between the Board of Education and Town Council, the elected body that has final say over next fiscal year’s municipal spending plan. Continue Reading →

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‘I Will Not Be Harassed Nor Bullied’: Despite Acrimony, Town Council Votes To Create ‘Land Acquisition Fund’

Saying they felt bullied after fellow members of New Canaan’s legislative body took an unusual step to force a specific item onto their meeting agenda, two officers of the elected Town Council on Wednesday night abstained from voting on it. Ultimately, the Town Council voted 7-0 in favor of establishing a “land acquisition fund”—a state law-sanctioned vehicle that’s designed to allow New Canaan to purchase property and use it for open space, recreation or housing. Yet the Town Council’s secretary, Penny Young, and chairman, Bill Walbert, abstained from voting. Originally discussed in January after councilmen John Engel, Kevin Moynihan and Cristina A. Ross argued in favor of its immediate creation, the land acquisition fund item was to be taken up again in March, according to Young, under an agenda set by herself, together with Walbert and the Town Council’s vice chairman, Steve Karl. Under the Town Council’s own rules, if five members of the body sought to add it to the agenda for this month, they could have done so, according to Young. Continue Reading →

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Assessor: New Canaan Working Toward 2018 ‘Statistical’ Revaluation

Officials say they’re working toward the next town-wide revaluation and plan to capture an updated snapshot of all real property values in New Canaan as of Oct. 1, 2018. Working with a private company, town workers will complete a “statistical” rather than comprehensive valuation of New Canaan, according to Assessor Sebastian Caldarella. In other words, rather than entering residents’ homes to help determine values—an expensive and time-consuming process that state law requires every 10 years—the work involves studying home sales and market trends as well as permits issued for new construction in town, Caldarella told members of the Town Council during an informational update at their Jan. 18 meeting. Continue Reading →

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Councilman: New Canaanites Want Town To Consider Ban of Leg-Hold Trapping

The unintended trapping of a red fox in a leg hold device on Briscoe Road has captured the public’s imagination and some believe that New Canaan should pass its own law banning the practice, according to a member of the town’s legislative body. Town Councilman John Engel at the group’s most recent meeting raised the prospect of taking up the widely discussed matter in public hearings. “Some people say that this is a state law that says that you can put out [leg hold] traps, but some people say that as a town, maybe we shouldn’t just defer to state law,” Engel said at the group’s Jan. 20 meeting, held at Town Hall. “Maybe we should evaluate and figure out what our policy is. Continue Reading →

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