Education salaries through the roof

To the Editor:

My taxes went up from $5,440 in 1987 to $18,000 in 2010 -- 330 percent -- and could double again in 14 years if total spending keeps going up.

At the Tuesday, March 15, Board of Finance meeting, I asked why the Board of Education did not cut more from its budget and was told for everyone who stands there and wants them to cut, there are 10 behind you who want them to have more.

No one behind me wanted them to have more.

The budget is not a cut from last year's budget -- just a decrease in what they were asking for. They still get $3,279,000 more then last year. Seems to be an unholy alliance with town officials and the Board of Education.

The Board of Education budget went from $60 million in 2006-2007 to more than $71 million last year. This year it will be $73 million -- $74 million if you count capital expenditures. $14.4 million in five short years comes to a 25 percent increase.

In the last year, I got a complete list of Board of Education salaries, which took me six months to get.

We have 399 teachers: 82 make $100,000 to $120,000 a year; one Spanish teacher makes $117,000 a year; an art teacher makes $120,000 a year; 51 make $90,000 to $100,000 a year; 35 make $85,000 to $90,000 a year. There are 124 teacher aides, costing $3.1 million a year -- one for every 3.2 teachers.

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We never had aides when I went to school -- and they all get a 3.9 percent increase this year.

The superintendent makes $250,000 a year. OK. But we have an assistant who makes $181,000 a year and a deputy who makes $185,000 a year. That's $618,000 for superintendents.

The high school principal makes $169,000 a year. OK. But we have not one but three assistant principals who make $143,000 a year. That's $598,000 for high school principals.

The list is an eye opener. No wonder you have to ask for it repeatedly. What are they hiding? Six hundred and eighty three town employees' salaries.

The town can cap spending at 0 percent for the next two years, like I asked for last year, and 2 percent for the next four years. They can do this now. They control the total spending.

Richard P. Vachula

New Canaan

Stop the

anti-sidewalk petition

To the Editor:

Beware of what you are signing when you sign the Stop the Roads and Sidewalks Petition with the intent of taking it to a town-wide referendum. Signing this petition will stop all road repairs in New Canaan and interrupt the work process from continuing, possibly for months.

Although some individuals might be sincere about the Town spending money, it is really in my opinion mostly about just a very few people who do not want sidewalks abutting their property on Main Street. This is even if sidewalks are beneficial to the vast majority of people who live in the area.

Having sidewalks on Main Street is not a new idea. Sidewalks have been part of the towns infrastructure plan to improve roads, walkways and access to the town center and its schools for a number of years. It will not increase taxes but it will make walking on Main Street safer.

I agree that the right to hold a referendum is important, but it should be done for the right reasons. I do not believe this is one. Do not help this small group make take this issue to a referendum and sign their petition.

Ed Vollmer

New Canaan

Hospital thanks volunteers

To the Editor:

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, April 10 through 16, there are some very special members of our community who deserve recognition. I would like to recognize Norwalk Hospital's extraordinary and dedicated volunteers for their commitment on behalf of our patients. Approximately 500 volunteers, representing all the communities we serve, share their talents, skills and compassion to assist our patients, visitors, physicians and staff. They serve in virtually every hospital department.

During National Volunteer Week, our board of trustees, physicians and staff join with me in offering our heartfelt thanks to our devoted Volunteers who are an inspiration to all of us.

Daniel J. DeBarba Jr.

President and CEO

Norwalk Hospital

Town's Financial Condition Aaa

To the Editor:

Recently, a subcommittee of the Board of Finance was charged with evaluating the Town's capacity to service its existing debt and assess New Canaan's overall financial strength. While Moody's assigns the Town its highest "AAA" rating (which Moody's defines as "obligations that are judged to be of the highest quality with minimal credit risk"), the Board of Finance wanted to conduct its own independent analysis.

The subcommittee reviewed scores of ratios and analytics, including data comparing New Canaan to all of its neighboring towns in many categories including general fund balance as a percent of revenue, debt burden, debt service as a percent of operating expenditures and pension funding. The conclusion of our analysis suggests the Town's economic and financial strength are among the best in the surveyed group with debt burden, debt service, and pension funding ratios that compare favorably with the finest municipal profiles across the country.

The reassuring result of this review confirms that the Town is in excellent financial health with superior financial operations. Over the past few years New Canaan has applied numerous best-in-class practices based upon recommendations from the 2008 joint task forces of the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Board of Education and Town Council. By being proactive and making tough financial choices, we do not face an impending financial crisis like so many troubled municipalities that we read about in the national press. While we have numerous challenges ahead over where and how to allocate our scarce tax resources, we begin this task upon sound foundations. We invite all residents to view the results of the study at www.newcanaan.info.

Charles Van Vleet

Robert Spangler

Neil Budnick

Members, Board of Finance

Deficiencies in proper town governance

To the Editor:

Some things are not right in New Canaan town government. Why is the First Selectman (Jeb Walker) also the chairman of the Board of Finance? Why are a Board of Finance full-time member (Neil Budnick) and Board of Finance alternate member (Christine Wagner) concurrently serving on the Long Range Planning Committee? Why should the First Selectman be in a position to cast his votes twice on resolutions presented before both the Board of Selectmen and again to the Board of Finance? And why should those persons serving on the Long Range Planning Committee be allowed to cast their votes as a full-time member and alternate member on monetary appropriations and spending proposals presented to the Board of Finance? Why have they not recused themselves on LRPC issues?

When you see who serves on our Board of Finance, do you have any notion of possible cronyism? And do you believe that there are conflicts of interest when certain members on the Long Range Planning Committee are in a position to cast "tainted" votes when matters are moved, seconded and voted on by the Board of Finance? If you ask any knowledgeable attorney, they will very likely give you the opinion that such situations do not constitute proper town governance. Chapter 17 of New Canaan's Town Charter is titled "Code of Ethics" and it needs to be changed and/or amended along with some other chapters in the Town Charter.

We should expect nothing less than absolute honesty, complete impartiality, impeccable ethical practices, utter transparency and proper governance in all functions and proceedings in all departments and groups in town government. If you are concerned, stand up and speak out to call for changes and corrections in the way things are being done.

Frederick Chang

New Canaan

Career fair a success

To the Editor:

Last week, 410 high school students found the answer to the question, "What's Next for You?" at Career Night 2011 held on March 22 at New Canaan High School. Fifty guest speakers representing 16 diverse industries shared their expertise and discussed their career choices with students who were eager to learn from their experience.

The evening was a huge success due to our dynamic speakers who so generously gave their time and talents to help inspire and encourage the teenagers in our community.

We appreciate the support of Tony Pavia, principal and assistant principals Ari Rothman and Dawn Bartz, the faculty, National Honor Society, Service League of Boys (SLOBS), National Charity League and a dedicated team of parent volunteers who made this event possible.

A special thank you goes out to Co-chairman Diane Sorcher, the Career Night Committee, a wonderful group of extremely talented women, and to Sue Carroll in the NCHS College and Career Center for her guidance and assistance every step of the way.

Lisa Smith

Parent Faculty Association

Career Night Chairman

The referendum and the rhetoric

To the Editor:

I write to comment on reports pertaining to Tiger Mann's insistence that the sidewalk referendum will hold up necessary re-pavement of problematic town roads.

Contrary to falsehoods, the "Sidewalk Referendum" will not stall paving on the town. An associate called the asphalt plant and was told that asphalt will not be available until April 18. In addition, in order to start re-paving and lay the asphalt the air temperature needs to be at least 40 degrees 24 hours a day. The NOAA forecast through March 31 is for low temperatures ranging from the upper teens to mid-30s each day. In addition the bid price of $1.2 million for the asphalt is locked until May 17.

The issue is not anti-sidewalk , it is anti-pork and a demand for transparency and truth. Mr Mann was the individual who attached the cost of the sidewalks (Washington D.C. style pork) to the road pavement bond issue, not us. Now he complains and blames those citizens who desire truth and the closing of the money spigot. In better financial times perhaps sidewalks, in the "proper" parts of town, would be appropriate but only if safe for all, especially first-responders and their equipment. Every citizen deserves the right to vote their opinion, which is what the referendum is demanding. Democracy not dictatorship.

Another article was published that stated that the Town's finances are in "tip top shape." However the results are based upon a non-GAAP other method of accounting, cash-basis accounting. Cash basis accounting does not accrue unfunded post-retirement benefits and entitlements. If included Iam sure that debt would exceed assets. Also why is New-Canaan's bonded debt of $130 million $54 million greater than that of Greenwich? The population of Greenwich is 485 percent greater than New Canaan, meaning a larger infrastructure.

Perhaps if we had capable individuals, without personal agendas, $25,000 would not need to be spent on another consultant.

Roy Abramowitz

New Canaan