‘That Is Not Sustainable’: Finance Board Member Flags Town Spending, Scope of Saxe Proposal


New Canaan cannot sustain recent spending rates and, as the town addresses major capital needs such as at Saxe Middle School, hard decisions must be made lest the town burden taxpayers unduly or completely drain its coffers, a member of the Board of Finance said Tuesday.

The educational system in New Canaan “did a fabulous job of educating my daughter and could not be more supportive,” finance board member George Blauvelt said during the group’s special meeting at Town Hall, “but we are looking at a series of really tough tradeoffs.”

“If we go forward with the Saxe program as currently proposed, then what in the town don’t we do? What will other constituents in the town—who are also residents in the town and taxpayers in the town—what don’t they get if we go forward with this?”

The comments come as a Board of Education-backed proposal to build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition at Saxe while renovating the auditorium and expanding music rooms—last estimated at about $17.1 million, though an updated figure is expected—makes its way to the finance board and other town bodies for approval.

Board of Finance members stopped short of rejecting the full proposal, though more than one of them echoed Blauvelt that further study and discussion is needed—such as around enrollment projections—before funds are committed beyond renovating the Saxe auditorium (widely accepted as an absolute need).

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who serves as the finance board’s chairman, framed the discussion as a way to share the group’s thinking with Board of Ed members—some of whom were in attendance, in addition to the superintendent of schools. Specifically, Mallozzi said, as the Board of Ed prepares for a presentation on Saxe next month, the finance board should be specific now about its thinking on debt, affordability and potential tax increases.

Mallozzi said certain parts of the Board of Ed’s contractual spending is coming into focus through ongoing arbitration with a teacher’s union, while construction costs generally are escalating. For example, the first selectman said, a project at the water treatment facility originally estimated at $8 million now could be $20 million, while the proposed parking deck at Locust Avenue Lot will probably cost $5 million rather than $3 million, and capital upgrades at Waveny House will cost $5 million to $8 million rather than $3 million to $5 million, as first thought.

Board of Finance member Colleen Baldwin said infrastructure needs listed on New Canaan’s 5-year capital plan should not be deferred, and called for “material changes” to town spending. Those could include “material shared services” such as between the town and public schools, and “material reductions” to operating costs, Baldwin said.

She added that parents should be informed about how the finance board supports the renovation of the Saxe auditorium, though it has outstanding questions on the enrollment projections that prompted a building committee to recommend the 12-room build-out in addition to the auditorium work.

Blauvelt said that, in New Canaan, Board of Ed costs have gone up about 3.36 percent compounded per year in the last four years, while town costs have gone up about 2.6 percent during the same time.

“At some point, we are going to be in a spot where there just isn’t enough money around,” Blauvelt said.

“You cannot grow 3.36 percent compounded for five years each year without having to double or triple the tax base for the residents. That is not sustainable. I am concerned about how all this fits together. What do we give up? What will the educational system give up to fund this? And what will the town give up?”

Mallozzi said he was confident that the relationship between municipal government and district officials was strong and that each side would work collaboratively.

Finance board member Mary Davis Cody noted that the Board of Ed faces unfunded mandates such as in Special Education spending that can change quickly and dramatically.

Here’s the most recent presentation on the Saxe Middle School building project from the New Canaan Public Schools website:



11 thoughts on “‘That Is Not Sustainable’: Finance Board Member Flags Town Spending, Scope of Saxe Proposal

  1. I’m glad that these issues involving our ability to afford to do every foreseen capital project are now on the table. For some time we’ve assumed we could do every capital project we wanted. We know that as a community we need to make choices that balance the schools with other town needs while keeping our tax burden in line with expectations. I have every confidence that the effort that will be put into the issues will arrive a the best affordable answer although not every party will be happy with the priorities. We should approach these issues open minds and courtesy.

  2. It’s great that this member of the BOF is done with our schools and his daughter benefitted. My kids will be long gone from Saxe when the FACTUAL AND EXISTING 1400+ students come thru, but I still care.

    The schools are the crown jewel
    Of the town. I am certain most people move here because of our schools. If we are over crowded, which we already are, you will compromise our position as a desirable place to live and this will, in turn, hurt real estate prices. And who will be paying taxes if no one wants to come and live here because we didn’t have the foresight to find this vital project. The notion that we want fancy town halls, multi tiered parking garages, and other business oriented projects over a vital school system is short sighted, and frankly, selfish.

  3. Michelle – You must be part of the BOE bleeding Hearts club– Fancy Town Halls — tells us a lot — there was no 12 million classroom expansion till they saw the NEW Town Hall — They can’t stand that we would spend our tax dollars on something else besides them — so they started OH we need More space — Back in 2002-03 they had in grd 1-4 1,377 students that were to move into Saxe
    but Saxe numbers never grew to more then 1,338 in 2006-07
    kindergarten which they said was a driver came in a good 40 students less the they predicted this yr. They had in their capital plan years ago to spend $650m for temp classrooms if they needed them. — but you know they can’t stand the Town giving itself
    a new Town Hall — Their Greed and sense of entitlement
    is the real driver for spending 12 mil of our taxpayers dollars
    I did not move here for the school — I moved here for the complete Town experience — it’s been 29 yrs so far — I would like to stay a while longer — Michelle you have been fed a story not based on facts

  4. It may be true that yearly spending increases need to be reigned in. However, that is entirely separate from the need to expand saxe to accommodate the children currently in elementary school. If they don’t fit, they don’t fit. The mean-spirited comments I read here, where some people attack the BOE and some the Town as if it is a zero sum game between two money-grubbing, dishonest, fundamentally opposed entities is becoming tiresome and absurd. Does anyone really believe that the BOE is manipulating information bc they are coveting unnecessary extra classroom space. Do we imagine teachers throwing parties in these empty rooms? I’m going to be attending the meetings from now on and I hope to find that the actual process of government is more civilized than this space.

  5. KW — Are they holding classes outside? — you say they don’t fit
    but they do. If they did not they would have gotten the temp class rooms — don’t you think — they have that option for right now —
    not 2yrs from now — all the parents could have demand it

    If it such a problem why are there no temp class room
    on the site this past summer — they cost $650m
    I am sure the TC and the BOF would have
    given them the funds. And yes they have been Manipulating
    information from Nov 13 2014 till now — They say enrollment is
    up– but it was up 16 last yr — 16 more which were part of the
    51 outside students in the schools — they know theres a drop off from 4 th grade to Saxe for some reason — but they don’t tell you that
    Even with their slanted projections — the projections never have the 1-4 grades ever above 1362 in 2016-17 and 1314 in 2024-25
    which would move to Saxe

    In 2013 they told the TC and BOF that they had 4229 students — but told the state they had 4,140 which is also printed in they historical documents a 89 student mistake .

    They used the media to tell everyone that Saxe enrollment has gone up — but in fact went down-25 last yrs –this yrs it went up
    by 43 — but they fail to tell you there is a one time class of size
    for the 4 th grade of 362 students that declines to 311 the next yr
    that would decrease Saxe by 51
    Yes they are a master manipulator of the truth
    There are many options besides spending 12 mil and making a big
    school — some say to big—bigger– see you at the next meeting

  6. The primary reason New Canaan house prices are more than double Stamford’s is because of the schools. We moved to New Canaan for the schools, as have friends of ours with children, both before and after we did. We’ve recently talked up New Canaan to others with young kids. This keeps property values high. Be proud to support children’s future. Better schools (and libraries, etc.) build better communities. If the schools deteriorate, so will property values. A town as wealthy as New Canaan should be embarrassed to even be considering overcrowding its schools. Our son (4th grade) already has 22 kids in his class.

  7. Hay Jim — You and your friends are free to send double your tax payments to the town clerk this January 2016. or you can pay mine
    Like the chairman of the Audit committee said ” I have no problem spending your Money” –and Jim I grew up in Stamford and own
    real estate in Stamford it’s not the schools it’s location , location
    You have to stop this nonsense about the schools — they are good
    we all know that — they should be we spent 1/2 billion over the last 8 yrs –would 10 in each class be better — think not

    In 2002-03 they had 1,377 students in grd 1-4 that would move to
    Saxe –Saxe never grew to more then 1,338 in 2006-7
    where was this call for expansion — there was NO call
    only after the Town built a 18 mil Town Hall is the call for expansion — They can’t stand that we would spent our tax dollars on something else besides them — it’s their sense of entitlement

    anytime over the last 5 years they could have put in temp classrooms (at a cost of $650m) if it was such a problem — only after the New town Hall did they start we need space and it must be done right now

    get your head out of the sand — the world will not come to an end
    if we do not do Saxe until we have more real data — Fortune 100 company’s do not spend millions on buildings due to speculation they rent and wait for real data — 12 million for 12 new classrooms
    Jim get 100 of your friends put up $120,000 each and you have your 12 million — we will name the new wing after You

  8. Dear Richard:

    I doubt either of us could maintain control of 22 4th/5th graders, let alone teach them well. Our son was at Country School the past few years, where his classes had about 15 students with two teachers per classroom (versus one at South School) and more specialists. St. Luke’s says its middle school classes have 13 students and its high school classes ten students. You seem to feel expanding Saxe is exorbitant, but, although we’re providing town children with a quality education, it’s far from the kind of gold-plated education available at top private schools.

    When you say, “it’s not the schools, it’s location, location” that makes New Canaan houses valuable, you’re overlooking the huge role of quality schools in making New Canaan a desirable location. It’s also the parks and pools, the libraries, the walkable sidewalks, etc. All are things our tax dollars make possible. Our taxes make our town nicer to live in and more valuable to those looking to buy homes.

    Saxe is designed for 1,200 students, currently has 1,344, and will have over 1,400, based on current elementary enrollment. Expansion is necessary.

    You invite me to pay for the expansion myself. That’s not how PUBLIC education works. Communities support their children. There are over 20,000 people in New Canaan. $16 mil. is $800 per person. But interest rates are low, and the cost will be spread over many years. The $1.1 mil./yr cost is just $55 per year per resident.

    The Fortune 100 companies you cite make smart investments like this all the time. This is a wise investment in our children’s future, our community’s present, and your home’s future value.

  9. Jim lavin — maybe you have not been in the debate but their will be no 1409 students in 2020-21 back in 2002-03 there were 1,377 students in grade 1-4 that should have made their way to Saxe
    but Saxe never grew to more then 1,338 in 20006-07

    right now (counting out of town students 40 in grd 1-8)
    right or wrong there are only 1,314 students in grades
    1-4 that will make their way to Saxe — you seem like a smart guy
    you do the math 1,377 in 2002-03 == peak 1,338 2006-7
    1,314 in 2015-16 = ?______
    they fail to tell you also the one size class of 375 Grade 7 will be out of Saxe in 2017-18 the class behind is only 308 – 67
    Jim their is also this odd thing that happens the whole 1-4
    grades do not t go to saxe —
    Why don’t know – but over the last 13 yrs
    they lost -13 in 2005-06
    – 39 in 2006-7
    -18 in 2007-8
    – 56 in 2008-9
    -78 in 2009-10
    -32 in 2010-11
    – 1 in 2011-12
    + 69 in 2012-13 this is grd 7 class of 375
    + 49 in 2013-14

    their projections for grades k-4 were for 1,631 came in -25
    projection for 1-4 1327 came in 1314

    I know Jim you have a busy life –You don’t have time to go over all these number — I made the time — their will be No 1,409 students in Saxe in 2020-21 — we are asking questions which is good for all

    We don’t like being told last yrs Saxe enrollment went up last
    yrs when it went down -25 — why misrepresent of facts?
    The BOE has a problem with the truth and once you tell us things That turn out not to be true and hide other thing it hard to accept
    their numbers on anything without checking
    Again I did not make up the story about them holding on to 5 mil (to do what with 1,200 per child) they fell entitle to our money
    They would like you to make out your next tax payment to them and skip the town all together — we all need to take a hard
    look at what people ask us for —

  10. News just in 0 % increase in SS payment — 3rd time in the last 5 yrs
    because of inflation — their is none! So why don’t we give the teacher 0% over the next 3 yrs — but give them a bonus pool to give out to the outstanding teacher
    companies have been doing this for years

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