$60,000 Restored to Proposed IT Spending for New Canaan Public Schools

Finance officials on Tuesday restored $60,000 to New Canaan Public Schools’ proposed spending plan in information technology. Saying that the funds, $15,000 per year under a four-year equipment lease—the equivalent of 90 computers—“sounds like an awful lot” to ask the district to do without, Board of Finance member Jim Kucharczyk at the group’s regular meeting urged the group to restore the money. “I think it is $15,000 well spent and I think the implications of pulling 90 systems out of the schools would have a negative impact on the program that we offer our kids,” Kucharczyk said at the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at New Canaan Nature Center. The finance board voted 9-0 in favor of restoring the funds as the group approved a proposed municipal budget for fiscal year 2016. The overall spending plan now is in the hands of the Town Council, which is scheduled to set a final budget at its April 1 meeting.

First Selectman: New Canaan Not in Danger of Losing Playhouse

Rob Mallozzi on New Canaan Playhouse Repairs
Though extensive repairs are needed at the town-owned Playhouse—the DPW has put the figure at $2.1 million, not including abatement—New Canaan is not in danger of losing its iconic Elm Street movie theater, the town’s highest elected official said. In the video above, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi explains how the open question facing town leaders is not whether New Canaan will put money into upkeep, but just where that funding comes from.

Schools Plan $600,000 in Security-Focused Technology, Facilities Upgrades

The district intends spend nearly $600,000 in the second phase of a plan to bolster security at all five public schools, officials said Thursday. Though officials do not disclose publicly details of security plans and equipment in the schools, Superintendent Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during a presentation of the district’s capital budget that the planned upgrades involve continuing “some of the work that we began, finishing off a couple of things that we are important to finish.”

“There are technology components to this and there are also facility components to this,” Luizzi told officials from both the Town Council and Board of Finance during a meeting held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center. “There are no staffing pieces to this, so there are not recurring costs that are built in beyond maintenance of the technology pieces that we have.”

The comments came after Luizzi’s formal presentation of the Board of Education’s proposed 4.87 percent increase in operations spending. Total capital needs during fiscal year 2016 will come to about $12.3 million, the district estimates—a figure driven mainly by an estimated $10.1 million project to renovate the 1957 Saxe Middle School auditorium and create sufficient visual and performing arts classroom space to accommodate a burgeoning student population. (Download a copy of the schools’ proposed budget here, and see page 131 for information on the district’s 5-year capital plan.)

Director of Digital Learning Dr. Robert Miller on behalf of the schools put in for and received a state reimbursement grant that will return about 20 percent of the district’s planned $598,500 investment in security, Luizzi said.

Outback Proposes that Town ‘Repurpose,’ Take Over Teen Center for Estimated $83,000 Annually

The town could assume the costs and day-to-day operation of Outback Teen Center for an estimated $83,000 per year, under a new proposal from the nonprofit organization’s board of directors. Under a proposed three-year trial, the New Canaan Recreation Department would take over the Outback, with the town covering its $225,000 annual operating budget—offset by $70,000 that the board would fundraise, $33,000 in income (rentals, programs) and an additional $39,000 saved by sliding in a Rec staffer to run it. Built in 2001 as a teen center with funds raised privately, and on town land through a no-cost lease, the Outback’s board is seeking “to repurpose the center to align with the current needs of the town’s youth.”

“The Board is proposing reorienting the Outback Teen Center as a Youth and Family Community Center while maintaining its emphasis on middle school and high school programming and family events,” according to the board’s proposal, which can be found in full below. “A portion of our community’s indoor recreational and enrichment needs is being well served by the adult and senior community center in town, Lapham. It is important to have a designated facility to serve the social and enrichment needs of the youth and families in town.”

The proposal, titled “Repurposing the Outback: Plan for a Youth and Family Community Center (YC),” calls for the Outback board to turn over the building to the town in exchange for providing programs for youth and families.

New $50,000 Safe Pedestrian Walkway at Waveny Garners Support

Finance officials on Thursday voiced support for a proposed walkway in Waveny that’s designed to take distracted and baby stroller-pushing pedestrians out of the busy access road to Lapham Community Center. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, presiding as chairman over a regular Board of Finance meeting, said he views the estimated $50,000 project as addressing an important “safety issue.”

“I’d like to get this done,” Mallozzi said during the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center. “This is like something that we have all seen, but we haven’t seen it,” he said and added to Recreation Director Steve Benko: “I applaud you for seeing it.”

Benko presented the new pedestrian walkway to the finance board as part of his fiscal year 2016 budget requests (see ‘Waveny Trail Resurfacing’ on page 60 here). “We have a lot of pedestrian traffic on that road during the day ,and all different times, and people are walking with strollers and people jogging with their headsets on,” Benko said. “It’s creating a dangerous situation—we’ve got people on the road not paying attention to traffic, we’re getting a lot of traffic, people going to Lapham Center during the day, a lot of people go down to use the Lapham Center parking, they have activities on the water tower turf field, it is becoming an accident waiting to happen.”

With $50,000, a 6- or 8-foot-wide processed stone walkway could be installed off of the main road through Waveny at Lapham accessway (right there at the dog park), and along the east (softball and soccer fields) side of the road.