Letter: Future of Saxe Expansion Is Future of New Canaan


As a parent of two children at West School after having recently relocated from Manhattan, my wife and I are very focused on the Saxe Middle School expansion not only for the future of the New Canaan school system, but also for the appeal of New Canaan to new families. We would not have moved to New Canaan but for the strength of the public schools.

The Saxe project has been well researched by the Building Committee and has been thoroughly vetted with multiple alternatives considered. The recommended expansion is logical, cost effective (relative to only renovating the auditorium and enlarging the school at a later date) and imperative for the future of Saxe and the town. The recommendation is not a “Cadillac expansion” but only meets “most” of the school’s needs.

I encourage residents to educate themselves on the facts. Don’t be misled by recent articles exaggerating the negative financial impact on New Canaan. The cost of financing the expansion with the town’s AAA Moody’s rating in the current record low interest rate environment is approximately $1.4MM per year on a town budget of $150MM. Expressed another way, this equates to a mere $65 per year for each town resident. This is less than a 1% increase in the town’s budget. Yes, other capital projects may need to be delayed or reevaluated and town operating budgets may need to be trimmed to offset future tax increases, but Saxe should be the top priority.

Without a strong school system New Canaan will not be competitive with our neighboring communities resulting in the impairment of property values. There is no question that this is a big investment for the town, but there is also no question that this project is needed and needed now. I urge all of you to express your support to the Town Council and the Board of Finance so the work can begin on schedule in the summer of 2016.

Greg Ethridge

New Canaan

4 thoughts on “Letter: Future of Saxe Expansion Is Future of New Canaan

  1. Greg,
    We all love our schools and children but that does not mean that every potential appropriation request should be approved. Future enrollment levels are questionable. In my experience, the qualify of education depends on the quality of teachers. Spending more on facilities may cause us to be forced to spend less on teachers in the future as budgets will be constrained – is that what you want? We need to fix the auditorium to bring it up to current building Codes, and perhaps there is more work of this nature that must be done. The rest, however, seems to be voluntary and one can debate whether the education of our children is put at risk if we don’t accept these proposals. Frankly, I don’t think that the case for these discretionary expenditures has been made convincingly by the Board of Education or by you. The fact that the town can afford them is not really an argument in favor of them.

    • re: “Future Enrollment levels are questionable”
      I am wondering how you are forming your opinion?
      Our demographers make enrollment projections using the 10/1 enrollment figures. Despite some fluctuation year-to-year, projections have been quite accurate overall.

      Also, current enrollment is at 1329. Seeing that the 1999 renovation was made to accommodate 1,200 students, the current state of the school is OVER CROWDED by definition! The demographic predictions show the population of students growing, not shrinking.

      Additionally, K.R., the Teacher’s salaries have no business being in the building equation. One is an operating expense, and the other a capital cost. There is no reason for the BOF chair to wait on scheduling vote on the Saxe project until after teacher negotiations. They are unrelated and the SBC has given the town bodies much information on the timeline and that it would be requesting funding approval in the fall. Pushing into December would delay work starting in summer and lead to cost escalation.

  2. Michelle , Michelle — such dribble — Saxe is past 1,200 because
    History of Saxe — originally junior high school grade 7 and 8 . in 1995
    the BOE moved the 5 th grade to Saxe. then renovated it in 1997 to hold 1,200 students — total students at 804 — then the BOE moved the 8 th grade back to Saxe and it became 1,170 in 2000
    so was it over crowded by definition in 1995 — NO
    was it over crowded in 2000 before the 8th grade moved back — NO — it only gets over crowded when they moved the 8 th grade back to Saxe — so the question is why renovate for 1200 when you plan on having 1,170 students in the school — they were well aware of what their student population was — that 3 yrs after the renovation they push it to in your words over crowded- NO not yet still 30 to get to 1,200
    last yr Saxe enrollment was 1,292 122 over their 1,170
    back in 2000
    not bad only 92 over the 1200 and if they built in 10% overage
    their should be room for 1320 — so their are many questions

    The BOE is the ones throwing students into what they ask for a 1200 student school none of this has to do with Births or move ins they been pretty stable — If you take out the 51 out of town students the enrollment would be down not up at all.
    and they seem not to be able to get their enrollment numbers to agree with their published numbers and what they give the state — I have 2 conflicting documents both published by the BOE one says 4,229 given to the TC + BOF in 2013 and the other just published in may 2015 that show 2013 was 4,140 which is indeed the number given to the state off the state web site
    So they said they had + 89 more students then they had —
    this is why we question everything they say — and when people say lets send 5th grade back — you get a NO — or the 8th to the HS which their is plenty of room — you get NO
    everything is NO except their hurry up lets push this plan to spend 18 mil or the world will come to an end

    History has proved that they are not truthful in their dealings with the town–it a fact I did not make it up
    you can hide your head in the sand if you want — but get your facts straight if you are going to debate

  3. Greg Ethridge — did you get educated on the facts —
    by the way the cost from what I could see —
    the BOE said $140 per household — but this is misleading some could be less and some could be as much as $500 a yr and that would be for every yr for the next 20 yrs — I am not against spending money — I voted to buy the park

    but your statement saying Saxe must be a priority —
    show that your love for the BOE is blinding you — open your eyes
    whatever this is it’s not the top priority in town —
    keeping taxes low is — and if we are giving out huge sums of money — How about a senior Tax credit of 10-15% to anyone over 67
    so that all your BOE entitlements can be more evenly funded by the people who use them the most — do we really need to pay $82,000 a yr for cell phone rentals — I think not

    Again to all who think this must be done now –you can start a fund
    to build it and i still would not be for it — it will be to BIG

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