Town Council Approves 2 Percent Increase To Budget for Fiscal Year 2017

Praising the diligence of municipal workers and volunteers, as well as district officials for the granular level of detail made available in their own spending plan, the Town Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a total budget for next fiscal year of $141,121,088. The first budget passed since the widely discussed Audit Committee was put in place, it marks a 2.09 percent year-over-year increase, including a 3.66 percent bump in the Board of Education’s operating budget (driven mainly by health insurance costs). For the first time in recent memory, no one spoke during the public comments section of the final budget hearing. Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl publicly thanked the Police and Fire Departments, New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Department of Public Works, including its highway division, New Canaan Library and others. Addressing the Board of Education—several members of which attended the meeting with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, among other administrators—Karl called their budget presentation “amazing.”

“You worked real hard, you guys came prepared and had the most information we have ever had, so thank you for that,” Karl said during the meeting, held at Town Hall.

‘Is This Really the Year?’: Councilman Flags $35,000 Request for NCHS Club Sports in Proposed Budget

A proposal that would create a way for New Canaan High School club sports to apply for some public financial support through the district was met last week with a raised eyebrow from at least one town funding bodies’ member concerned about its scope and timing. Town Councilman Jim Kucharczyk during a budget presentation last week called the $35,000 that the Board of Education is seeking to set aside for a pilot program “a nontrivial amount.”

“In a year where we are already funding a major renovation project at Saxe” and facing a required, steep increase in healthcare costs in the district, Kucharczyk said he would “raise the question: Is this really the year we need to allocate $35,000 with everything else that’s going on to the fencing and ski teams?”

His comments, made during New Canaan Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Luizzi’s Feb. 2 budget presentation to the Town Council and Board of Finance, address a proposed new policy (embedded in full as a PDF at the end of this article) that the Board of Education supported by way of including the additional $35,000 in its final proposed spending plan. Sports such as squash are not part of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, or CIAC, because not enough public high schools in the state have a team. That often relegates a sport to private funding only in New Canaan, because it means the district’s Athletic Department cannot offer funds, and the bylaws of the New Canaan High School All Sports Booster Club only allow disbursement of funds to CIAC sports.

‘We Are Not Going To Do Anything Irresponsible’: For Now, New Canaan Location of Abilis Tied To Doubtful Viability of The Hub

The head of a nonprofit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities said his agency will only start operating out of The Hub in downtown New Canaan under the board now in charge of the facility if that group somehow achieves financial viability. New Canaan resident Dennis Perry, president and CEO of Greenwich-based Abilis, said his organization’s first priority is to avoid doing “anything that puts the population we serve at risk.”

“I will not open up and find the facility that we are operating in is not financially viable, and then have to shut down,” Perry said when asked about the prospect of operating out of the lower level of The Hub, as per a Memo of Understanding now in place. “The discontinuity that would create for these individuals who do not transition well—we would be irresponsible to do that.”

The comments come as questions surround The Hub’s ability to make money and self-sustain—a challenge that the building’s former operator, the Outback Teen Center, was unable to overcome, ultimately closing for good last summer. Inchoate plans for a catch-all community center appear to have garnered little support. An online campaign seeking to raise $25,000 in support of The Hub has banked just $2,320 in two weeks—with more than a quarter of that from board members themselves—raising questions about the community’s interest in the broad program that’s been proposed for the facility.

Board of Ed: Nonresident Teachers’ Kids in Public Schools Are Not Driving Classroom Staffing Costs

Nonresident teachers’ kids who attend New Canaan Public Schools are not pushing any class sizes past a tipping point where, under the district’s own guidelines, a new teacher must be hired as a result, officials said Tuesday night. In a year where health insurance costs are acknowledged to be necessarily high, salaries and benefits account for 81 percent of the Board of Education’s proposed $87 million spending plan for next fiscal year. Staffing levels are determined in part by the district’s own class size guidelines, and town officials have asked the school board to look hard at those guidelines in this budget season. Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson told members of the Town Council and Board of Finance on Tuesday that she investigated the question of teachers’ children and total “sections” in the schools, “and I can tell you, I did the analysis: There are no additional hires that occur due to teachers’ children being in the district.”

The comments came during a joint meeting in which Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi presented the Board of Ed’s operating and capital budgets, together with Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating and other district officials. The finance board and Town Council each will review, discuss and possibly tweak the BOE’s proposed spending plan again prior to voting on it.

State on Police Grievance: Town Doesn’t Have To Pay Two Officers $47.60 in Mileage Reimbursement

A state arbitration agency this week notified New Canaan officials that it found in favor of the town in a case that revolved around $47.60 total that two police officers had been seeking in mileage reimbursement. According to findings received Monday from the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration, a police sergeant and lieutenant in February 2014 filed a grievance after their superior said they wouldn’t be reimbursed $42 and $5.60, respectively, for traveling to police headquarters on a day off for a strategic planning meeting. Though compensated at time-and-a-half for four hours, the two policemen cited a clause in New Canaan Police Union Local 1575’s collective bargaining agreement which reads: “In the event an employee is required by the Police Department to use the employee’s family or personal automobile, the Town shall reimburse the employee for such use at the rate of the current Federal Standard per mile.”

After their superior rejected the mileage reimbursement claims, the policemen filed a grievance with the town. That was denied, and the matter went to arbitration, according to a copy of the award from the state, dated Jan. 5.