Cristina A. Ross
Town Council Preempts Change to School Start Times in Divided Budget Vote
The Town Council during an emotionally charged meeting Thursday voted 8-4 in favor of a spending plan for next fiscal year that effectively forestalls long-discussed changes to New Canaan Public Schools start times. The legislative body’s bipartisan vote in favor of an overall budget of $152.2 million represents an increase of just .19% over projected spending for the current fiscal year. Though the budget also includes a 2.5% year-over-year increase to district spending (exclusive of healthcare savings), it’s still about $1 million less than what the Board of Education had requested of the town funding bodies. The shortfall means the Board of Ed can’t pay for additional school buses and attendant staff needed to implement a proposed new start times schedule—a consequence that district leaders and some councilmen understood following discussions held in recent days, according to Town Council Chair John Engel. In voting in favor of the budget, Engel and others said they’re convinced that New Canaan adolescents should start school later, but added that the wide economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 means now is the wrong time to introduce significant new transportation costs.