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School Budget Presentations Were Great

Great job and thank you to everyone who spoke on behalf of the BOE's recommended budget at last nights BOF meeting.

I attended the Board of Finance meeting last night and wanted to thank everyone who spoke on behalf of the Board of Education's recommended budget. The presentations were fantastic, well researched and organized, and provided salient information supporting the . In addition to the time and effort the presenters took to speak before the BOF last night, it is obvious that countless hours of work went into creating the powerpoint presentations and speeches.  

I want to make sure that everyone who was involved in these presentations, including the Council of Darien School Parents, the PTO Chairs, and all the school Budget Representatives, all know that Darien public school parents like myself really appreciate everything you have done. The Board of Finance has some very difficult decisions to make and you have provided them with an enormous amount of supporting evidence to accept the Board of Education's recommended budget.  

Great job and thank you!

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Darien Taxpayer March 15, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Yes, they were very heartfelt. here is your problem, though. EVERY SINGLE year we go through the same charade of listening to people pleading for their 'pet' program to be passed and warnings that any cuts will devastate the excellence of the entire Darien educational system. Nobody believes it anymore. The original request is irresponsibly and ridiculously high knowing it will be cut slightly by the BOE and then the big pleadings come. It has become shopworn and residents and taxpayers are finally tired of the game and are sick of these increases, in many years more than salary increases of the people paying the freight. Many taxpayers haven't had raises in YEARS! What about that don't the cushy people making hundreds of thousands a year not get? This should have been a zero increase year if there ever was one and if that meant killing some sacred cows, then that's what they should do. People who want these bells and whistles like world languages for their six year old should pay for it themselves. If you think it is THAT critical to their success in Harvard, move to a town that provides it. Separate the budget motions at the RTM and let's see who votes with me to turn it down if it doesn't come down from the BOF to a number that makes sense.
Prince March 16, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Listening to the education committee of the RTM, One guy said 50% of the town has kids "and they all want languages" that will cost 400,000 dollars. Is he crazy? Will you guys please stop spending on programs that are half-baked? It is costing way too much money and it is time to starting drawing a big thick line that says no more wasteful programs.
Andrea Cragin March 16, 2012 at 01:31 AM
As also a resident and taxpayer of this town, I was simply commentating on the high quality of the presentations given on Tuesday night. As a parent of three children attending Darien Public Schools, my opinion is respectfully different than yours. Interestingly though, I noted that you chose not to voice your opinion concerning the BOE's recommended budget at the Board of Finance public hearing on Tuesday night and instead plan on voting against it at the RTM. Since you are an elected official, I believe your constituents would be interested in knowing your opinions on the BOE's recommended budget (and thereby knowing your identity "Darien Taxpayer") in advance of the RTM vote.
Susan Vogel March 16, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Darientaxpayer: The Board of Education and Board of Finance hold public hearings every year for this very reason -- to allow all members of the community to share their opinions about both the town and school budget. On Tuesday night, representatives of the Council of Darien School Parents, each of whom put their names to their opinions, presented well articulated arguments for why they support the school budget. Despite being given the forum to do so, not one speaker spoke in opposition to either the Board of Ed or Board of Selectman's budget. You mention that you are a member of the RTM, so you also will have an opportunity, after both budgets are passed by the Board of Finance, to cast your vote on May 14th. Hopefully you will come forward and share, in advance of the RTM vote, your point of view on the school and town budgets so that the constituents you represent as an elected official of the town will have the opportunity to share their opinions with you. Prince: According to 2010 census data, over 50% of households in Darien have children 18 years of age or younger. For any given year, the percentage of Darien school children who attend private school ranges from 13%-17%. Information about the demographics of our town was included in Margot Congdon's and Terrie vandeGraf's presentation delivered on Tuesday evening. A copy of both the speech and the slides can be found as a PDF attachment to the article on the hearing posted earlier this week.
John Sini March 16, 2012 at 09:11 PM
D-Taxpayer, I look forward to hearing your solution to the issue at our upcoming RTM meetings. If any RTM members are ultimately unsatified with the final budget presented by the BOF, they should put in their best efforts to reach some sort of adjustment/compromise to propose to RTM at its budget meeting in May. I think we can all agree that an outright rejection of the education budget would not be good for our town and its students, no matter what your fiscal stance is.
Preston Bealle March 17, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I agree with Darien Taxpayer. A 5% increase is a gift when most towns nationwide are reducing. Kansas City closed 50% of its schools more or less at once. Once in a while, we need to lose an intern or an elementary language program, it's not a disaster. All three of my kids went to Darien schools all the way through, so I am directly involved. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35806883/ns/us_news-education/t/schools-close-kansas-city-mo-fall/
Alex Tytler March 18, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Money doesn't grow on trees, but you people act like other people money is free money. Maybe it's because you are taking more in educational services than you are paying in property taxes, and you'll be long gone when it comes time to pay the piper?
Susan Vogel March 18, 2012 at 04:52 PM
The annual process for setting the school budget involves the Board of Finance, whose members take their responsibility to our schools and community very seriously. Due in large part to the BoF's fiscally conservative management and oversight of our town's finances, Darien holds claim to the third lowest mill rate in Connecticut, while ranking third in ability to pay. School parents are very mindful of the investment the town makes in our schools, and have assumed some of the responsibility through an activities fee ($100 per student) at DHS, paying for field trips, subscriptions to magazines and music software programs, among other costs. At the elementary level, the PTOs contribute $100 per student annually, totaling $234,000 this year, to fund unmet classroom and building needs. Gifts from the PTOs, booster clubs and community groups totaled $340k in 2010/11. All of these gifts together represent close to 15% of the total regular education operating budget. Our community's desirability to home buyers rests in large part on the reputation of our school district. Maintaining the level of excellence that has earned our schools a national ranking requires annual investment. We moved here before we had children and will be here long after both our girls graduate from DHS. The pay-off in the investment we make in our schools, for all of us, comes when we monetize that investment in education through the sale of our #1 asset, our homes, whenever that may be.
sebastian dangerfield March 19, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I witnessed for years the high quality of decision making that occurs at the BOE and BOF level. Its difficult to argue. That being said, I think it would make a lot more sense to have at least 10% of the BOE be made up of non-parents. We seem to get spending advocates...and the idea of saying no to programs is sacrosanct --because saying no to "their program--means they might say NO to your program. However, I again say that I never witnessed any irresponsibility--and the idea of expanding the language program is a good one---but only if they get good teachers. My memory was that it was a weakness 15 years ago, and from what I understand, the language teachers have room for improvement.
Clara Sartori March 19, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Not everyone on the Board of Education has kids in the school system.
Darien Taxpayer March 23, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Susan Vogel:  No one disagrees with having excellent schools and programs or the impact on house values.  No one questions the sincerity of parents organized from every school who get up and plead for every single piece of spending - they actually believe what they are saying and the presentations are well done.  But it no longer resonates and for good reason.  After last year's vote at the RTM, you would think those running things would recognize the shot across the bow that the never-ending increases, even in tough tough economic times, were wearing thin.  Apparently not, and they may well pay the price if the BOF doesn't pull their fat from the fire. Many of the people on the RTM have done this for a long time and over the years the CDSP has lost a lot of credibility.  The problem goes even deeper and in recent years, the BOE Administration has lost substantial credibility as well.  Superintendent Falcone's first-pass budget submission of 9.5% was so outrageous it left many people's mouths agape.  We are paying this man almost a quarter million dollars a year and he submits a bloated budget like that? Where was any respect for the taxpayer?   When costs could go down, there are suddenly new incremental programs like world languages and the empire expansion continues. Let's hope the BOF gets this down.  After last year, testing the RTM with a large increase would not seem to be a good idea.

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