‘Frustrated’ and ‘Disappointed’: School Board on Final $100,000 Reduction from Proposed Spending Increase
Saying the Town Council’s final, unexplained reduction of $100,000 from the district’s proposed spending increase for next fiscal year left them frustrated and disappointed, several Board of Education members on Monday night called for equal transparency and greater accountability from town government and municipal bodies. New Canaan also should look at its own budget process, school board members said, because by giving more power to appointed—rather than elected—officials, that process leaves Town Council members just one way to put their mark on the budget: reduce what’s been handed to them. Calling the Town Council’s move “unprecedented” in her 12 years on the Board of Ed, Alison Bedula described the move as a “basically random cut to either meet percentage or fulfill an obligation.”
Administrators and school board members worked diligently “to present a transparent line-by-line budget and to have discussions about it through the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance, and to have this thing really kind of ripped apart and looked at in detail which is a really necessary part of the process—to reach the Town Council and answer all their questions and then to get to the very end just to have $100,000 lopped off of the top of the budget, I just found that very disconcerting as a board member, very frustrating, quite frankly,” Bedula said at the Board of Ed meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “I think it’s very difficult as a board member for us to go through the process that we do, to the level of detail that we do, with the level of thoughtfulness that we do, and try to be as transparent as possible, which is asked for and delivered, which is what we all want, obviously to get to that point and have a random no pulled out of the sky, to say ‘We’re just going to take $100,000 off … you guys just have to find it some place.’ ”
Bedula and others at the meeting praised Interim Director of Finance and Operations Nancy Harris, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and others for putting so much time and effort into a budget presentation that included new depths of detail, as well as the four councilmen who voted against the final $100,000 reduction in the district’s spending increase for next fiscal year: John Emert, John Engel, Kevin Moynihan and Tucker Murphy. (The 12-member Town Council voted 7-4 in favor of the reduction, with Penny Young absent.) Engel in particular during the Town Council’s April 1 meeting had said he was dissatisfied with a $100,000 reduction that lacked any supporting documentation or explanation.