Town Council OKs $141.1M budget
Board of Education must trim $100,000
Published 3:59 pm, Wednesday, April 8, 2015
The New Canaan Town Council approved a budget of $141.1 million for total town operating and education costs on Wednesday, voting narrowly to nip $100,000 from the school district's overall budget.
After a debate, the 10-member council voted 6 to 4 to reduce the Board of Education budget to $83.2 million, cutting $100,000 which the district officials will need to reduce themselves. The budget represents a 2 percent increase in town operating spending, and 2.8 percent increase in Board of Education spending.
Engel argued that the cut sent the "wrong signal" and was an arbitrary amount given that the town council had listened to Superintendent Bryan Luizzi and other district officials make a thorough case for the spending plan and any increased costs during the budget process.
"Why do we go through this process if what we're really doing in the end is going with a feeling and picking a target number to give and say, `figure it out'?" Engel said. "I do have a problem going through a six month disciplined process and then throwing a number at the wall and saying, `you figure it out.' "
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Before the body approved the $100,000 cut to education spending, Councilman Steven Karl responded to the arguments that the town had made much larger percentage cut to the town's general government budget, which is much smaller overall.
"I just want to remind you we've already, as a percentage, cut the town side of the budget by $20,000 and $25,000," Karl said. "Strictly speaking, the Board of Education cut does not even resemble that in terms of a percentage."
Asked by the council where the district would cut money, Luizzi said district officials were still weighing options.
"It is very hard," Luizzi said. "Certainly we always look to maintain programs, so we'll have to sharpen our pencils a little bit and make some decisions. But to narrow it beyond that -- I'm sorry."
Town Councilman Roger Williams said the $100,000 reduction was a reasonable reduction given the town's ongoing focus on maintaining manageable tax increases.
Subcommittee members who reviewed the school district's budget were not directing specific cuts, but had adequate information to conclude the district could trim $100,000 without impacting educational programs.
"I can share with you where I believe we can cut that number ($100,000) and more without touching programs," Williams said. "Our role is to say, `What is the appropriate number for the BOE to do their job and the maintenance of excellent schools?' "
The public safety budget increased to $11.3 million, about $230,486 more than during the 2014-2015 year. During the meeting, the body approved an amendment to cut $20,000 from Police Chief Leon Krolikowski's $360,000 police overtime budget, which the chief had described as discretionary during an earlier hearing.
Karl and other members of the body agreed that the continued implementation of a software scheduling system for police and fire overtime should help trim costs by bringing to light on an interim basis spikes in overtime spending. The $360,000 forecast by Krolikowski was about $100,000 less than the 2014-2015 budget.
"We hope that year two of using that software will show further benefits," Karl said.
Several council members commented that the budget season had been better than previous ones in terms of getting plenty of information to back up requested spending and make more educated decisions of what to cut and leave alone.
Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert said he appreciated the cooperation of the Board of Education and other departments to rigorously appraise costs.
"The town goes through an incredibly exhaustive scrubbing of all the numbers to get to where we are," Walbert said. "It is a privilege to be serving the town and have the final say of the hard work done by the departments."