With the blizzard bearing down on the town last Thursday, the message from the school district at the combined Board of Finance and Town Council budget meeting is that this year is a perfect storm of unavoidable costs.
School security, increased health-care costs, the elimination of stockpiled excess cost grants, and a fixed increase in salaries combined to a 5.7 operating budget increase request in 2013-14.
While many of the comments from the councilmen and BOF members congratulated Superintendent Mary Kolek and the district on their efforts, there was some amount of displeasure over the increase.
Council member John Engel questioned an expenditure of more than $200,000 earmarked for security needs. The line item includes money to purchase more communications equipment, while the majority of it would be for professional, unarmed security guards at the middle and elementary schools.
Engel asked whether the guards could be filled in-house by New
Canaan police officers.
"We really feel that access and control to our campus is something we can do a better job with," Kolek said. "We need to focus on controlling who is coming into our buildings. These are not police officers and they are not armed, but they are professionals at security and monitoring."
But Engel said there were other options.
"Given an atmosphere in which every dollar is precious, I was a little surprised to see a $200,000 line item for campus monitors," Engel said. "(Police Chief Ed) Nadriczny has advocated for a second SRO (school resource officer) at Saxe, a different approach from outsourcing to an outside firm, for someone who's not armed, and is not used to kids."
Kolek assured Engel that the district and the police have worked together at length to develop security plans, and that they've found this to be the best solution.
The Board of Finance will continue discussion of the budget at its next meeting, Feb. 12.
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