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Letter: Cost of Shuffle Unlikely to Hurt Ed Spending

In a letter to the editor, RTM Member Debra Ritchie says members of the Board of Education and town education officials have told her that, historically, spending on capital projects like the Shuffle hasn't crimped spending on education.

To the editor:

I am a mother of three and on the RTM serving on Finance and Budget and it’s Education subcommittee.  My goals are operating the town efficiently and providing our children with the best education possible.  After significant study I voted for the shuffle because I believe it is the best alternative in terms of cost and facilities usage available to Darien. 

Some are concerned the shuffle will take money from our children’s education.  As part of my diligence I directly contacted members of our school administration, and current and former members of the Board of Education.  I urge you all to do the same. Their responses were consistent:  historically, capital projects of this nature do not impact spending on Education.

If you vote "no", another option will come, but that too will have a cost to the town and maybe not only in tax rates.  Vote Yes.  Visit voteyesdarien.com.

Debra Ritchie

RTM District V

sebastian dangerfield December 05, 2011 at 01:48 PM
The police station is a problem for the anti-shuffle crowd. It basically serves as a way to demonstrate much of what the anti shuffle crowd is talking about is simply not true. The police station has not affected education. It was not opposed by these same people on their fiscal conservatism mantra. The anti shuffle people are simply pro-affordable housing people , cloaked in a new garb of fiscal conservatism." The problem is, when Robin wears his mask, most people can still see its Robin. He fools very few. If the the shuffle fails, there will be no new senior center push by these people. They put zero effort into the senior center project up until now, and will continue to put zero effort into it in the future. If the shuffle falls, they will claim victory and leave the seniors in their dilapidated building. Their only focus, is to have housing at 35 leroy, and all the masquerading that goes on, is disappointing. This referendum is a simple question to voters---do you want affordable housing at 35 leroy, or do you not. The anti shuffle crowd could not care less about how much a new senior center may or may not cost. They dont care one iota about a transfer of the BOE. They are unwilling to give up on affordable housing at 35 Leroy and simply are not honest about their intentions or objectives.
Chapin December 05, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Luca Perhaps you need a class in basic budgeting/accounting. Capital projects have a direct impact on operating budgets. In the case of the Police Station, the "recurring" annual impact of the capital project is $1.5 million. The proposed Shuffle will be a $400k cost. Add the Weed project and the town has to finance $2 million/year (amortize the cost of the projects) as a result of the three capital projects. Using the 10/11 baseline budget expenditure figure of roughly $110m, the three capital projects account for 2% growth in the overall budget. Was $18 million necessary? I can't argue the expense as I was not privy to the details but I would guess an $18m project would be put to a referendum in today's economic climate. Over the past several years, it is clear that educational space is becoming an issue. ELP has been "shuffled" while the Avalon students were redistricted, leaving friends and a short bus commute behind. Did the Town care about the impact on the Avalon students? What about the "activity fees" that are being charged? I believe the extra-curricular fee is $100. Some sports have additional fees on top of the $100. The $100 fee in its purest form is another tax. Bottom line, the numbers support pressure on the school budget.
Debra Ritchie December 05, 2011 at 10:59 PM
Please visit www.voteyesdarien.com. Click "More Information". There you will find "the cost of no".
sebastian dangerfield December 06, 2011 at 05:24 AM
Thanks chapin. I love these passive aggressive insults such as I need a class in BASIC budgeting. Awesome. I understand that they impact operating budgets, but nevertheless , for purposes of these discussions they are separate. So -I separated them. Just as you want me to take lessons, may I suggest that you brush up on the police station issue. That was passed, in the last 15 months. Not exactly sure when--but you somehow suggest that the current economy is far different than the current one. And given that you dont like to change anything in your statements, and find ways to slip into a new discussion, I wont bother asking why this economy is so vastly different than the one 1 1/2 years ago, so that the referendum here is correct and no referendum is correct. Whatever you say is right. 1.5 mio increase in operating expense is fine--and in no need of any analysis It has not affected the boe budget. But that fact cannot be acknowledged. It gets classified as "no one can say." As though the people who make these decisions are simply not people one can ask. Now the 400k? Somehow , people CAN SAY it WILL affect the education budget. How can they say? Doesnt matter....just have to trust the anti shuffle people on that one. Now you are going to bring up Avalon redistricting? Wow...just like Deb, you wont discuss the past, but you will discuss the past. Im amazed at how you can condescend so easily, but Im sure this past and that past are different.
Chapin December 08, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Luca, People are entitled to their own opinions but not facts. The Town has pursued capital projects close to $30 million over the past several years after the high school referendum. People forget the high school was also put to a referendum, as it should have been 10 years ago. During the same period, the underlying education budget excluding contractual wage and benefit increases has not increased even remotely close to the increase in the mill rate. The economy has indeed weakened over the past 15 months, so the situation is meaningfully different. In 2011 alone, Wall Street, the lifeline of Darien has shed over 200k jobs. The unemployment rate in Fairfield county is roughly 12% (I don't have figures for Darien). Median home prices are stagnant, yet the mill rate increases at 5%/year. It is clear that many in the Town have reached a tipping point. Perhaps the $18m for the Police Station didn't result in widespread opposition but tack on another $7m capital project and many residents have had enough. I am fairly confident if the Police Station was proposed today, it would be met with a similar level of opposition based simply on the economic climate.

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