11 thoughts on “Town Council Preempts Change to School Start Times in Divided Budget Vote

  1. At a time when we are all coming together as a community, recognizing that the health and well-being of our family, friends and neighbors is paramount, and witnessing how truly incredible our public educators are when tested under these extraordinary circumstances – this decision is a real gut punch. And for what? In the end, after the BOE committed to find an additional $300K in cuts to try to save the Healthy Start Times, the majority of the Town Council still rejected three years of BOE study, rejected BOF’s assurance that New Canaan was on solid enough financial footing, and rejected the hundreds of parents (of pre-school, elementary, middle and high school students) who wrote in support of the later start times – all to save less than $1M. They have said and will continue to say that they did not vote against the Healthy Start Times. But they did. Sven, Robin, Mark and Tom recognized this. The praise bestowed upon Dr. Luizzi and his all-star team of educators by Town Council members who rejected the funding of the later start times rings hollow – actions speak louder than words. Ironically, the unprecedented situation we currently find ourselves in has allowed New Canaan parents to preview the benefits of a later start curriculum. Now we are back to square one. This decision is a real gut punch – one that will stay with many of us for a long time. Mark, I’m with you: “I am very uncomfortable with this situation.”

  2. Andy, with the US economy and our.local economy potentially experiencing the deepest recession in modern history is there any scenario you consider it prudent for the BOE not to spend more taxpayer money? If the answer is yes, what would you be willing to offset the increase in later start expenses (or more accurately, middle school/high school later start and elementary school earlier starts) for in a budget? I would ask the same question of our local representatives who vote for the inexorable increases in BOE proposed budgets every year, regardless of our revenue (Grand List/home prices) situation. Businesses are compelled to offset decreased revenues now with decreased expenses. Families are doing the same Should our town not when they are inextricably linked to both businesses and families?

    I hope you recognize that even with the reduction in the BOE budget they will still be up 2.5% (above national metrics of inflation) on an operating basis. Towns like Ridgefield are tightening their budget considerably. Moreover, the “cost of living” trends specific to New Canaan are extremely deflationary (home prices) so the CPI is an extremely poor metric to inform local budgets.

    If you analyze the BOE budget objectively and do comparative town spending analysis maybe you will reach a different conclusion on what is a “need” versus a “want” right now. Later starts for all kids should be high on the need or want list, but something else lower on that list needs to fall off to balance the books. Fiscal responsibility — we are #2 in spending per resident in CT and #1 in debt per resident in CT, with the BOE principally responsible for those costs — is the foundation of good town governance and is relevant to all ~20,000 residents, not just some.

  3. The headline should read “New Canaan Cannot Afford Healthy Teens”. This vote by 8 Town Council members, led by Chairman Engel, is a clear vote against student health. During a pandemic. For them to say that they need to save money is disingenuous. The BOF has repeatedly said New Canaan is in good shape with over $20m in reserve. To cut an additional $1.2m from the school budget, after the superintendent has already made cuts per BOF recommendations, sends the message that the leading town body values partisanship over education. There is no other way to look at it. The Town Council could have negotiated an amount that was fiscally responsible while also respecting the 3 years of work that the BOE has done to create a healthier school schedule aligning with medical recommendations. Instead, 8 town council members in a private republican caucus took the $300k that the BOE was willing to cut (on top of the cuts they’ve already made) and added it to the $900k needed to change start times to come up with the $1.2m they voted last night to cut from the school budget. These 8 members say that this number happens to meet the 2.5% increase, but nobody who watched that proceeding last night is fooled. The Town Council is now responsible for the continued sleep deprivation that plagues half our student body, and that hundreds of families have been trying to fix for over a decade. They ignored letters, speakers, years of research, medical guidelines, local pediatricians, guidance by the BOE and BOF, and science. Today my heart is heavy with the understanding that town politics won over teen health.

  4. I fully support the Town councils vote on the BOE budget last night, as I think it was the prudent and fiscally responsible thing to do.

    However, I also realize that some may feel like yesterdays town council vote was a loss for their cause. And if your cause is later start times for High school students at any cost, including depriving sleep of elementary school children, than I would agree. But please realize, as has been expressed by many of us who have been protesting this plan, that we believe in and support what is hopefully your true goal “Healthy Sleep for all our Students”.

    The proposed plan, which some feel failed to consider many children, and the current economic situation may have contributed to the results of last nights vote, but I hope it does not diminish your passionate efforts. The work and research that has been done by advocates, the BOE and Administration is not wasted, as it demonstrates a health need. The information collected from surveys, traffic studies and consultants is not wasted, as it can hopefully help to sketch out a new and more equitable scenario.

    I think it is especially important in our current times that we look for reasons to unite our town as opposed to divide it. Let’s put this chapter behind us and all work together to formulate a plan that can work for more of our children and then figure out a responsible way to fund it. Thank you..

  5. TC did the right thing – pretty sure the BOE can find the money in their 90 million
    Budget —- but let’s do some out of the box thinking— why not have no one start before
    8 am — how about cutting off 20 to 30 min off the school day for all or at least some

    What would that 20 to 30 min hurt let’s get state premission if need be
    Let’s not fight over who gets to start later

  6. TC did NOT do the right thing. Teen mental and physical health should have been the prime consideration. This change (based on scientific research data) should have been implemented years ago. Once again New Canaan is “a day late and a dollar short”………and yet we paid top dollar for Irwin Park????

  7. This decision confirms that the majority of our Town Council has no interest in what the public, by a 10 to 1 margin, expressed fervent support for on behalf of the health of our children and all our town’s children. It also has no interest in the analysis and confidence of our Board of Finance in assuring the fiscal soundness of a decision to fully fund the BOE budget, nor does it have any interest in honoring the arduous labor over 3 years of our BOE and its subsequent nearly unanimous vote. This vote has dismissed science, medical advice, a step forward that towns surrounding us on all sides are taking, a willingness to invest in a school district that has drawn 72% of town residents to New Canaan, and it has dismissed us, the hundreds of parents who spoke up again and again over at least 3 years on the subject (whether “organized” or not, which is so absurdly irrelevant). The message sent to our children is shameful. One wonders from whom the Council’s members feel they derive their power.

    • Why even have a Town Council if you just expect them to rubber stamp everything? That’s not how it’s suppose to work. If you’re dissatisfied vote them out in next election.

  8. My faith in the rationality of the Town Council has been restored. They are not treating this situation as an island in itself but are considering the broader socio-economic concerns that were voiced during the surveys.

    Keep it up and I might actually stay in New Canaan after the kids graduate from school!

  9. The town owes a big thank you to the 8 members of the Town Council who showed foresight and political fortitude to vote for the adjusted budget. With the changed landscape as a result of COVID-19, The School Board and school leadership showed an incredible arrogance in continuing to push for school time change which would have resulted in an additional million dollars for transportation costs. I do not accept the idea that the town should just defer to the educators and rubber stamp whatever budget that they put forth. If this idea was so well researched why was Dr Luizzi telling us as late as July 2019 that the new plan would bring “bus scheduling advantages” with no mention of increased costs? The original budget put forth by the BOE was touted as a 1.47% increase that was just under the town guideline of 1.5 %. To get to that number the anticipated spending for healthcare was reduced by $1.9 million dollars. Given where we are now, it does not seem prudent to make such a drastic reduction. Does anyone see health care costs going down in next few years? Thankfully the eight Town Council members took a broader view and cast a vote based on the overall health of the town instead of a narrow sub-set.

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