Editor's note: The following letter was received about the referendum on Tuesday in which voters will be asked if $800,000 cut from the Board of Education's proposed 2011-12 budget by the Representative Town Meeting should be restored.
As a taxpayer, and parent of two children in public school I have, over the years, spent a great deal of my free time educating myself about the town budget process, particularly as it relates to the school system. I have stayed up late at endless budget meetings, taking away from precious family time and spending a great deal of money in babysitting fees, but I have always felt it was worth it. This past budget season was particularly arduous, and I watched with dismay as first the Board of Selectmen cut Supt. of Schools David Title’s extremely responsible budget by $2 million, a reduction which was then approved by the Board of Finance. I knew that many Representative Town Meeting members had discussed cutting the school budget further (and yes, it is a “cut,” not a “reduction of an increase” – these town bodies cut Dr. Title’s proposed budget for 2011-12), but I hoped it would not come to pass.
At the April 25 RTM meeting, then-First Selectman Ken Flatto, Board of Finance Chairman Tom Flynn and Selectman Jim Walsh all urged the RTM to not make any further reductions. Unfortunately, on May 2nd, the RTM did, by the slimmest of margins – 22-20 in favor of a $800,000 cut – and Dr. Title and the Board of Education were left to decide what they needed to reduce to make up the $2.8 million.
After many meetings and much discussion, staff and program reductions were approved by a majority of the Board of Education. People will lose their jobs, World Language will be reduced by 50 percent for grades 4, 5 and 6, and other sacrifices will be made.
There are many people who believe that the Board of Education budget should have come in with a 0 percent increase, but that was an impossible goal – due to contractual obligations (including a raise for teachers approved by the present RTM), over 100 more students in the system in the coming school year, as well as increases in basic costs of running the school district such as fuel, heating, electricity, etc. – without making serious reductions in the quality of the programs offered to the 10,000+ students in Fairfield Public Schools.
Nothing can bring the school budget back to the level requested by Dr. Title, but the $800,000 cut voted on by the RTM can be reversed if the proposed referendum for June 14 passes, so please vote “Yes.”