9 thoughts on “Board of Education: Cutting $3.1MM Is Not Fully Funding Our School Budget 

  1. What is wrong with our budgeting process that the BOE feels it necessary to argue its case in the press? This letter shows a serious breakdown in communication and mutual respect, which must be restored. Our town deserves better.

  2. The BOE budget is out of control. Some cuts and restraint are healthy. And spare me the “kids are in peril” rhetoric.

  3. As an empty nester, I support the budget as proposed by our Board of Education, applaud this letter and share their outrage.

    • Hi Jane – I think we all support the school system. The challenge for us who are not empty nesters, and have Elementary and PreK kids in the school system (and are 2 working parents), is in part that the budget includes a mid-year significant changed school start times. I encourage you to look at https://www.ncstarttimeequity.org to learn more about this. If after looking at all that information you still think we should proceed with the proposed change, I encourage you to speak out to the relevant town bodies and let them know that.
      I also think some of this issue the BOE is talking about with regards to Covid costs relate to potential funds available for the town through various governmental programs (I am not an expert on this and you should ask the BOE / BofF). I encourage you to look at how many other towns in Fairfield country are doing their school budgets – I think unless somebody says otherwise, we are doing similar to them.
      Lastly the BOE needs to include debt costs, in addition to operating costs, when they talk about per pupil expenses – remember we are looking at declining enrollment over the coming year(s) so unless we manage expenses per pupil spend may increase markedly.

  4. 1. The BOE’s per student annual spending growth over the last ~20 years is ~4.2%, much higher than inflation or what most would consider reasonable.
    2. The BOF wants to allocate money to the BOE for COVID expenses as a special appropriation, but they have said they fully intend to cover for all expenses. Asking to see a breakdown of itemized expenses instead of writing a blank check is the type of oversight we should want from a town body. According to Darien’s superintendent, 20 surrounding districts are not including COVID expenses as part of the budget. Hopefully people will take the time to fully understand what our peers are doing and why.
    3. The BOF wants to bring in-house payments for health care, as it does for other town departments. Part of the reason they want to do this is because the BOE has over-reserved for these potential claims in years past. That taxpayer money that was over-reserved for did not go to the classrooms. It sat in a bank, so to speak, earning next to nothing.
    4. The BOE has done an excellent job with COVID and our teachers/administration are generally excellent, but the BOE has not been very transparent along a number of fronts. The granularity of their budgets pales in comparison to Darien, where the cost of piano tuning expenses are included in their budget! One can easily look up and compare the transparency and granularity of NC versus Darien’s budget by looking both up. The BOE has also not been transparent on the later start initiative, giving little consideration and dialogue to those who want later start times for elementary school kids. Research points to a healthy amount of sleep for elementary school kids being up to 12 hours. Given the proposed start time of 7:45 am (the earliest in the State and one hour earlier than the average in the State), that means putting your child to bed at ~6 pm to get them up at ~6 am for a ~7 am bus. Is that practical or preferable?
    5. The per student spending number cited in the article does not include NC BOE’s very high debt service expense relative to peers. This distorts our per student spending ranking. As the BOF chair cited in his letter, the BOF is spending $101 million on BOE costs this year. Divide that by projected enrollment of 4,095 and you get per student spending of $25,000 per student, much higher than our neighboring peers and almost all of the State (national average is ~$13,000 per student).
    6. Money is not the primary driver of educational outcomes, especially in affluent towns. See link: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2004/rpt/2004-R-0005.htm. The Stamford Charter School of Excellence is 99% BIPOC, 46% free lunches, has much lower per student funding, and has 85%-90% proficiency rates in math/reading: https://www.niche.com/k12/stamford-charter-school-for-excellence-stamford-ct/.
    7. To the extent money in less wealthy communities has an impact on educational outcomes, recognize that NC debates the timing of refurbishing our planetarium while some kids in Danbury ($14,000 per student spend, heavily subsidized by the State) and other cities don’t have access to Chrome books for remote learning. Is that fair? If one says it isn’t fair, there are two practical ways to address it in CT: raise taxes or cut costs. I’m not as concerned about spending the 5% extra the BOE asked for in its budget versus last year than the kid growing up in disadvantaged communities. More should be open about which of these two options they would pursue rather than a comfortable, but not genuine, position of all schools should spend more money. I choose cutting costs given the inefficiencies in the educational system in CT at every level, and giving parents more choice in the types of schools their child goes to (vo-tech, magnet, charter) to create more accountability and competition in underperforming districts. That entails having legislators less beholden to the State unions that will oppose such changes out of their own interest, not the interest of the kids.

    • Fascinating detail. Thanks for taking the time to post such a long comment.

      I have 3 kids, one has gone to college and two are in our school system. I agree that transparency is needed in order to identify the inevitable inefficiency that comes with a $95M budget.

  5. I support the BOF
    I have ask and not received documents supporting the claim that Cigna
    Passes on their discounts to the BOE insurance fund — Cigna was sued
    For not passing on their discounts to self insured plans —- I have asked if claims
    We’re gross or net — all they say in their budget is claims were this amount— never given documents on this issue so we could see the actual discounts if any
    When you go to the hospital you get a statement from your ins co
    Telling you what they paid it is never what the hospital charged
    That the insurance co negotiate discount —- we need to see this number when
    Claims are 12 million a yr

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