Tax Bills Dip Slightly after Unusual Budget Season

The 2020-21 budget season was like no other in history, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of a town-wide referendum vote, the Board of Selectmen was compelled to authorize the Board of Finance to approve the final budget.

Easton property owners will see a slight reduction in their tax bills this year. The Board of Selectmen set the tax rate at 31 mills, a decrease of 1.06% from the current 31.33 rate. The tax bill for an Easton house assessed at $400,000 will therefore decrease about $132 for the upcoming year.

The final budget is $44,639,809, an increase of $786,189 or 1.79%, which includes the Region 9 budget for Joel Barlow High School. Easton’s portion of the Region 9 budget is $11,123,653, an increase of $893,626 or 8.74% due to an enrollment distribution shift between Redding and Easton students. Easton’s enrollment is increasing from 42.39% to 45.68% while Redding’s apportionment of 54.32% represents a decrease from the previous budget year.

The overall Region 9 budget is $24,351,255 or a .9% increase, but because of the enrollment shift, Easton’s portion is up 8.74%, accounting for the $893,626 increase in Easton’s share. Easton’s percentage of students at the public high school is projected to be an ongoing trend, which means Easton’s share of the Region 9 budget is expected to continue to rise proportionately.

The town is using approximately 32% of the anticipated fund balance to lower the tax rise. This will leave more than 14% remaining.

First Selectman David Bindelglass fought hard to obtain permission from the state to hold a referendum on Easton’s annual budget. But in an ongoing effort to protect public health and safety and mitigate the effects of the pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont on May 1 issued Executive Order No. 7HH, banning any town meeting or referendum with the purpose of approving the budget.

“This was a difficult year to formulate a budget and I appreciate the efforts made by the Board of Finance,” Bindelglass said. “There was great uncertainty about the town’s ability to collect taxes in the face of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. 

“That being said, I think we short changed our children by again giving the schools less of an increase then they needed just to cover the increase in their contract obligated costs. This can not continue. There was much consternation about the undesignated or rainy day fund being too high. That fund balance was lowered by funding a slight decrease in the mill rate to property owners. I would rather have seen that money invested in our children’s future.”

Most departments, with the exception of Assessor, Emergency Management, Recycling and EMS will see a decrease in spending, Christine Calvert, town finance director, confirmed. The Assessor is in the beginning stages of the revaluation required by law, and Emergency Management has to replace radios which are also state mandated and the town is budgeting to replace an ambulance over a two-year period, Calvert said. 

The final approved 2020-21 budget is available for viewing on the town website, eastonct.gov.

Finance Board to Set Final 2020-21 Budget on Tuesday

The Board of Finance is expected to set the final 2020-21 budget when it meets this Tuesday, June 2 at 7 p.m. The Board of Selectmen authorized it to do so, in accordance with Protection of Public Health and Safety during COVID-19 Pandemic and Response – Municipal Budget Adoption, Common-Interest Community Meetings

First Selectman David Bindelglass fought hard to achieve permission from the state to hold a referendum on Easton’s annual budget. But in an ongoing effort to protect public health and safety and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont on May 1 issued Executive Order No. 7HH, banning any town meeting or referendum with the purpose of approving the budget.

Bindelglass said after learning of the the governor’s action, “I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t have a referendum, that people can’t decide on the budget. We have to adjust our plans as a result of the executive order, which definitively forbids us from having a referendum.”

Only the town of Vernon, which conducted drive-thru voting, held a budget referendum before Executive Order No. 7HH was enacted.

Easton’s 2020-21 budget generated lively and thoughtful discussion at the May 21 Board of Selectmen meeting. The board took issue with some of the reductions proposed by the Board of Finance after receiving comments from residents from April 1 to 30 and conducting department callbacks in early May.

The Board of Finance met May 11 and approved a proposed budget, subject to final authorization by the Board of Selectmen. The meeting is viewable on Facebook Live at Easton CT PTO or YouTube https://youtu.be/h83FtHSGL8s

At the May 21 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Robert Lessler expressed his disappointment with the $13,000 slashed for part-time work at the library. He called what amounts to $4 per household “a foolish cut.”

Lessler was also displeased with the proposed education cuts, and recommended that the board use the expected monies from the larger than expected return of funds from the local and Region 9 boards of education to restore those cuts. The Board of Finance has proposed that the cuts go toward eliminating three teachers at the elementary school, which would have the effect of raising the minimum class size to 22 per grade.

Lessler furthered advocated for reducing the undesignated fund balance (currently at about 17% of the budget, claiming it to be the largest in history) to no more than 12%, and applying the amount to lower the mill rate.

Both Bindelglass and Selectman Sogofsky made known their disapproval of the proposed budget, with Sogofsky bemoaning that the board may be “delaying the inevitable.” Ultimately, Lessler abstained from approving the budget in its present form, hoping that the Board of Finance incorporates the suggested revisions into the final budget.

In the end, the board had no choice but to authorize the Board of Finance to approve a final budget and set the mill rate, in accordance with Executive Order 7HH.

Visit the EastonCT. gov website to see the agenda for the Board of Finance June 2 meeting, along with instructions on how to watch it live, once it has been posted.

UPDATED 5/29: Board of Selectmen’s Meeting of May 21

The Board of Selectmen used a combination of Facebook live and Zoom to conduct its regular meeting on May 21 in a manner that supports our goal of transparency and openness, even in these days of physical distancing.

Public comment

After approving the minutes of our May 7 meeting, the board heard public comment from a number of residents. One person requested that any proposed ordinances be posted in full with the agenda so they can be read by the public before the meeting. Another expressed support for the proposed land use ordinance. Another questioned the use of the phrase “town attorney” when referring to the attorney we have often used to handle town legal affairs and criticized the continued engagement of that attorney given that this resident was not satisfied with the advice received on the Saddle Ridge development project.

Another speaker bemoaned the difficulty of having the annual farm tour this year but will speak with the 175th anniversary group about working with them to have a different kind of event this year in view of the pandemic. This speaker also said the goal of Citizens for Easton is to preserve all 29 acres of the South Park Avenue property. Another resident asked that the South Park Avenue Advisory Committee set a calendar of regular meetings so it is easier for the public to follow their work.

An individual asked whose rules would apply if we join the Westport Weston Health District? She pointed out how very different Easton is from Westport, for example, in terms of reopening after the pandemic. This speaker mentioned that perhaps there could be moneys available from federal grants or as a result of the change in school superintendent which might help the town. The last speaker asked if the board could provide a verbal summary of proposed ordinances before beginning debate and discussion on them.

Tax Refund

The board approved one tax refund.

Park and Recreation Commission Mission

The board took a look at various materials as it begins the process of considering changes to the Park and Recreation Commission mission. The Board of Finance has asked the Board of Selectmen to consider changes in order to address some issues related to the overlapping duties of the commission and the Public Works Department. One idea is to split the commission, making it a Recreation Commission and moving the “parks” work to Public Works. This will require an ordinance change and union negotiations. Selectwoman Sogofsky offered to take the lead on this project by gathering additional information such as looking at the structure in towns.

The Park and Recreation Commission has deployed its two full time maintainers (the parks staff) to assist Public Works with snow plowing during their slower winter season. This arrangement was the product of an extensive study back in 2017. There may be a need to do more work here in order to ensure that the coordination between the departments is smooth.

Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services relationship

The board approved the drafting of a request for proposals for a consultant to study the relationship between the Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Services Department (and possibly the communications department which is managed by the Police Department). This consultant work would cost in the area of $40,000. The selectmen expressed some reluctance to spend this money during the current fiscal situation resulting from the pandemic.

South Park Avenue Advisory Committee

At the request of the committee, the board extended the deadline for the South Park Avenue Advisory Committee to complete its work from June 30 to Dec. 31.

175th Anniversary

The board authorized the use of the town seal in the logo that is chosen for the 175th anniversary of the founding of the town.

Cemetery Committee

The board considered a request from the Cemetery Committee regarding how to accomplish their mission now that Gary Haines has left the committee. Haines did all of the maintenance work at the cemeteries himself and there is no one on the committee at present with his skills and experience. The First Selectmen will discuss options with the committee.

General Wage Increase Rescission

The board rescinded the general wage increase it previously approved for non-union and elected town employees and officials. This action was taken in response the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding lack of progress on a similar move for union employees. This action will not impact any step increases based on length of service for non-union employees.

EMS and Firefighters Honorarium Committee

While the board has accepted the recommendations of the EMS and Firefighters Honorarium Committee, those recommendations cannot be implemented without town meeting approval. Since we cannot have a town meeting during the pandemic, such approval will have to wait. This may mean the payments which are normally made in August will be delayed. However, if approved in its present form, the new ordinance is retroactive to July 1, 2019. Therefore, while the benefit may be delayed, it will be received in full.

Board of Finance to Approve Final Budget and Set Mill Rate

As required by the governor’s emergency orders, the board authorized the Board of Finance to approve a final budget and set a mill rate. The board did so after extensive discussion and after the members expressed disapproval of the proposed budget as it relates to the local Board of Education and the library.

Suggestions were made that the Board of Finance restore the $13,000 cut for part time work at the library, that the board recognize the larger than expected return of funds from the boards of education (local and R9) and use that windfall to restore the education cuts which the Board of Finance suggests be used to eliminate three teachers at the elementary school so as to raise the minimum class size to 22 per grade, and that the undesignated fund balance (currently at about 17% of the budget and the largest in history) be reduced to not more than 12% of the budget and be applied to reduce the mill rate. The board was divided on this vote to authorize and it passed two votes in favor and one abstention.

One Year Contract with Westport Weston Health District

The board authorized the First Selectman to enter into negotiations with the Westport Weston Health District to provide health services to Easton for a one year period beginning July 1, 2020. As our two professional staff in the department are each looking to retire, a new plan is needed for this service. A one year contract will allow Easton to have a full time health department, to test our relationship with WWHD with a view toward whether making that relationship a formal merger in the future is desirable, and to allow the WWHD to reap the benefits of extra state funding for larger districts.

Draft Land Use Ordinance

CORRECTION:  In my post about the May 21 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, there is a section on a land use ordinance that has been presented to the board for its consideration. I was under the impression that the proposal emanated from the local group, Citizens for Easton. Apparently, that is not correct. The proponents were acting on their own behalf and not as a part of any organization. — Bob Lessler

The First Selectman presented a draft land use ordinance. The intent of the ordinance is to require town meeting approval for any sale or lease of town property. Current law leaves such action to the discretion of the Board of Selectmen. In 2018, a similar ordinance was defeated at a town meeting. The new ordinance raises the dollar threshold and specifically excludes certain types of transactions.

Reopening Plans

The First Selectman updated the board on reopening plans for the town. Outdoor dining is now permitted with certain conditions. The town tennis courts are open for singles play only and also with conditions that are posted at the courts. Lower Veteran’s Park is open for household units only with conditions that are posted at the site. The dog park is open. The town open space and land trust open space are all open with conditions for maintaining physical distancing. The library will be offering curbside pickup. Each department in town hall will now have one onsite staff person during the work day.

A Message from First Selectman Bindelglass … Update for 5/15/2020

Good evening,

It’s Friday again! It is looking like a nice weekend, so I hope you will take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy the sunshine. It is finally starting to look like spring. The hospital data indicates the number of hospitalized patients is declining, but slowly. Yesterday, in Connecticut, there were 609 new cases diagnosed and 94 deaths. While slowly on the decline, those are still huge numbers. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the message still has to be that we all need to be careful, wear our masks, wash our hands and keep our distances. Recently, there has been new thinking about how the virus effects children so please keep that in mind as well.

This was a challenging week for those of us in town government as hours were spent hashing out next year’s town and education budgets. The discussions were sometimes passionate, even heated, but we have basically arrived at a 2020-2021 budget. This year’s conditions made this process even more difficult than normal. I think it needs to be pointed out that all the people who do this work do so on an entirely volunteer basis. They have different perspectives, but I firmly believe that they are all motivated by doing what they feel is best for the town. Just like Easton itself, there are a spectrum of opinions. The bottom line is as a town we owe all the members of our boards and commissions and committees, especially our Board of Education and Board of Finance a debt of gratitude for doing this important, difficult and thankless work.

There will be much talk about reopening in the coming weeks. Please support our eateries and farms during this process. Look at their websites and social media pages to see what services they are offering and what their processes are. We will be reopening tennis courts and some fields for limited public use next week. Check the Park and Rec website and social media pages for details. We continue to look at options for the Senior Center, but because our seniors are unfortunately the most susceptible of our population, we are hesitant to open any programs as yet.

Hopefully you all received a reverse 9-1-1 call from me yesterday. Some have pointed out that these messages are caller identified as a SPAM? DEMHS call, unfortunately the call service must go through the State Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and cannot be changed. The call was a brief reminder that for those who are having financial difficulties due to the pandemic that there is an opportunity to defer your tax payments for 90 days. You will need to fill out a very short form which is available on the Tax Collector’s page on our EastonCT.GOV website return it to Town Hall as soon as possible and absolutely by the July 1, 2020 deadline. The form can be mailed to you if you request by calling the Tax Collector at Town Hall, 203-268-6291. The Senior Center can also help pick up filled out forms.

We have a dedicated group of people working on creative ways to celebrate Easton’s 175th Anniversary led by Selectman Bob Lessler.

Easton has begun placing thank you signs on front lawns for our essential workers and contributors. It is impossible to know who all of these wonderful and giving people are so if we miss someone you think is deserving, please let us know by emailing the name and address to JHaller@eastonct.gov.

Please have a great and safe weekend!

This message appears on the EastonCT.GOV website.

Easton Library Faces Budget Cuts of $50K-$90K

Budget cuts of $50,000 to $80,000 means the Easton Public Library would lose a lot of what makes the library the center of the community. To be specific, the library would have to:

  • Reduce or eliminate special programs
  • Decrease the amount of money spent on books, audiobooks, DVDs, music, and databases
  • Eliminate the professional development opportunities that help library staff offer you the very best of service
  • And worst of all, it would force the library to cut hardworking and dedicated staff members.

“I beg you to reconsider the proposed cuts to the library’s budget,” Veronica A. Rozo, president of the Library Board of Trustees, wrote in an email to the Easton Board of Finance. “Now, more than ever, we, the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Easton, need the library working at its fullest potential.”

During these hard times of social distancing and stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, the library is a necessary resource, Rozo said.

“Some residents have lost their jobs, or their positions have transformed, and they are in need of additional information and guidance that the library offers,” she said. “Some who have lost their jobs need the library to re-educate themselves, to change career paths, and to strengthen their assets.

“Every parent is currently homeschooling their children and need the additional resources that the library offers. It is unknown how long children will be educated in their homes. Parents may decide to homeschool their children permanently.”

The cuts will prevent the library from fully serving residents at a time when they need it the most. Moreover, “Many potential homeowners visit the library before making a decision to purchase their homes,” she said. “Decreased property values affects all Easton residents, library users or not.” 

Time is of the essence! Library officials urge residents to voice their opinion today by sending an email message to BOF@eastonct.gov. The next budget hearing is Thursday, May 14, at 5 p.m.

Easton Board of Selectmen’s Meeting Of May 7

The Board of Selectmen held its regular meeting on Thursday, May 7, keeping appropriate physical distance between the members and staff.  Members of the public were able to observe and participate in the meeting via the Facebook livestream.  The meeting will also be available on Channel 79 and the town website after the fact.

The minutes of the April 16 meeting were approved.

Three tax refunds, all to Toyota Lease Trust, were approved.

The board appointed Deirdra Preis to the Cemetery Committee to fill an unexpired term. Also, Michael Sabia and Irv Snow were re-appointed as the Measurers of Wood. There remain openings available for an alternate on the Commission on Aging, and full members on the Pension and Employee Benefits Commission and the Tax Relief for the Elderly Committee.  Also available are expired terms for an alternate on the Board of Assessment Appeals and a full member on the Insurance Commission.

The Firefighters and EMS Honorarium Review Committee has completed its work and, therefore, the committee was officially disbanded.

The board approved the use of $23,000 in LOCIP funds for the purchase of an antenna system for the EMS department. The Local Capital Improvement Program (LOCIP is a fund of state dollars that Easton can use for certain types of capital improvement projects in town.

The board discussed the town budget approval process now that the governor has made clear through his emergency orders that a town referendum for that purpose is not permitted. The new procedure is that the Board of Selectmen shall authorize the Board of Finance to adopt a budget. The board determined that it will take the necessary authorizing action after the Board of Finance has completed its final budget reviews and adjustments and just before the Board of Finance acts to officially approve a final budget.

The board discussed the status of the Health Department. The two town officials who constitute the professional staff of the department are seeking to retire.  The town appears to have two permanent options. First, we could hire new staff to replace the existing staff. Second, we could form a relationship with a neighboring health district. 

The town is actively exploring joining the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) which would provide the town more services at about the same cost as we currently incur. A presentation is available on the town website regarding the WWHD proposal. If the town simply replaces the existing staff, the expectation is that the costs would significantly increase as we would need to enhance the programs, services and hours of the department. Since the process of joining a health district cannot be completed during the pandemic because it requires a town wide vote, the board is considering contracting with the WWHD to provide health services for a period of one year.  This will insure the town has the necessary services after the incumbents retire and will allow us to test the relationship with the WWHD without formally joining the district.

The board adopted a moratorium on the installation of 5G technology in the town until Dec. 31, 2020.

The Memorial Day parade has been cancelled due to the pandemic. The hope is that a parade can be held later in the year, perhaps on Labor Day.

The board authorized an appraisal of the South Park Avenue property in order to establish a current value. The appraisal will determine the value of the entire 29 acre parcel as well as the value of just the 17 acres along the river if treated as a separate parcel. One thought is to transfer the 17 acres along the river to a conservation organization so it is preserved in perpetuity and hold the remaining 12 acres for some other, as yet, undetermined purpose. There is likely to be state funding to assist an appropriate conservation organization with the purchase. The cost of the appraisal is $2,500.00.

The First Selectman updated the board on Covid-19 matters.

Members of the public offered the following comments:

1. Why was no one from Citizens for Easton appointed to the South Park Avenue study committee? The First Selectman responded by pointing out that the committee was not intended to guarantee a seat for every interested organization, but pains were taken to make sure that a broad range of points of view are represented on the committee.

2. Several people encouraged, and then thanked, the board for adopting the 5G moratorium. One person hoped that 4G could be included in the moratorium. Someone pointed out that the state of New Hampshire did a one-year moratorium.

3. A person said we should be sure to do a thorough cost comparison of the health department issue to assess staying on our own versus joining WWHD. This person also asked for information about the proposal for non-computer comfortable people. The First Selectman pointed out that there have been three public hearings, including one at the Senior Center.

4. A person spoke in favor of preserving all 29 acres of the South Park Avenue property as open space.

5.  After a discussion about planning for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and possibly joining with other towns in that effort, a resident pointed out that Weston and Redding have higher rates of infection and deaths than Easton so we should not join with them.

6. A resident asked what is happening with the pathway project along Sport Hill Road between approximately Helen Keller Middle School and Silverman’s Farm.

A Message from First Selectman Bindelglass

Kindness Rocks

Good afternoon, 

I hope you all enjoyed the lovely weekend. From personal experience, I saw many enjoying a nice walk outside, while also practicing good social distancing. Use of our wonderful open space was good and handled responsibly. Other towns have begun opening their outdoor spaces and beaches as well, and we will monitor the situation. All town leaders in the county will be reviewing data on COVID-19 cases to assess the effects of these gradual openings. I continue to believe that the people of Easton will be responsible and do the right thing. Just to keep our perspective, on Friday there were 523 new cases reported in Connecticut, and yesterday 59 deaths in the state related to the virus.  It would be foolish to think that this is nearing an end, or that the numbers cannot rise again. 

With much work, we had secured permission to hold a modified referendum on the budget and vote on joining the Westport Weston Health District.  With push back from other towns that had already decided not to have Town Meetings or “in person” voting, all budget referendums in the state were banned by Executive Order 7HH.  Therefore, the Board of Selectmen shall authorize the Board of Finance to formulate a budget and set an appropriate mill rate. The Board of Finance will meet this week and next to call back various departments.  Public input from the website will be considered, but the Board of Finance’s decision will be the final budget. The decision on joining the Westport Weston Health District will be postponed until the Easton residents can safely vote.  

After consultation with the Easton Exchange Club and the American Legion Post 160 and in agreement with every town around us, we have cancelled the Memorial Day parade for safety reasons. We are looking at some alternatives. A rescheduled parade may be related to or coincide with a celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Town of Easton, while not losing sight of the primary purpose of Memorial Day. 

The Board of Selectmen will consider a resolution to ban 5G networks from Easton temporarily until more information can be gathered about the potential side effects of the transmissions. 

Lastly, we are having discussions about reopening some of the town’s facilities and programs. More to come as the week progresses.

Be safe and be well!

Dave Bindelglass

Editors’s note: This message was originally published on the town of Easton website.

Lamont Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Budget Referendums

Governor Ned Lamont on May 1 issued Executive Order No. 7HH, barring towns and cities from holding budget referendums.

Titled Protection of Public Health and Safety during COVID-19 Pandemic and Response – Municipal Budget Adoption, Common-Interest Community Meetings, the bottom line message as far as Easton is concerned, is that the Board of Finance will have to set the town’s 2020-21 budget. 

First Selectman David Bindelglass had direct contact with the governor’s office as recently as April 29 and understood that Easton would be able to go forward with its referendum, he said. 

Bindelglass said he believed that the clarifying executive order that Lamont issued May 1 was in response to that conversation.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t have a referendum, that people can’t decide on the budget,” Bindelglass said. “We have to adjust our plans as a result of the executive order, which definitively forbids us from having a referendum.”

There have already been a number of executive orders about town meetings and referendums. Why another executive order was needed at this time is unclear.

The Board of Finance collected comments from residents from April 1 to 30 since the annual Town Meeting couldn’t be held due to social distancing during the pandemic. The finance board will meet on May 5, which was the pre-pandemic date of the budget referendum, at 7 p.m. via Zoom. 

See the original budget calendar here.

The finance board has not yet scheduled any department callbacks, but Bindelglass expects that will happen in the coming weeks. The board has until July 1 to formulate a budget. More details will be provided as they become available.

CRG Agrees that Budget Graph Is ‘Shocking’

CRG agrees with Mr. Parker that our budget graph is “utterly shocking.” On the other hand, how are those numbers — directly from town sources — “inaccurate and narrow-sighted?” The graph merely portrays the published numbers. The numbers are the monetary facts of our education spending, and the spending is shocking.

Our article did not say, and the graph was not intended to tell, the whole back story of the education budget. It was intended to show exactly what it showed. Expenses are up, enrollment is down, and achievement is level at best.

As a retired teacher of 45 years, a parent of two grown children, and a past member for nine years of the Region 9 Board of Education, I am familiar with the issues surrounding the education budget. They are not new. They are perennial and in no way reduce the shock of a 67% increase in per pupil spending.

Regarding the standardized test results, if you were paying for a tutoring service and the price increased even 15% while your child’s test scores were the same or worse, wouldn’t you look for a new tutor? I would, and the reason is two-fold. First, I want a better educational result because I love my children and, second, I want a better price because I have a finite budget. One does not exclude the other. We should take that same care with our education budget.

Our article made no mention of class size. However, since Mr. Parker mentioned it, I will note that across our country and around the world, schools in the past got higher achievement with larger class sizes. It is not a given that smaller class sizes or larger budgets get better educational results. Class size is not the issue, but in any other business or organization with this budget graph, every aspect of the organization would be seriously examined.

Sherry L. Harris
Citizens for Responsible Government

Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) was founded by Easton resident Bud Jennings over 30 years ago and is the oldest PAC in CT. For many years the group acted as a tax watchdog. In more recent years the mission has broadened, and CRG works to protect and sustain the traditional processes of Easton governance, the Town Meeting, by raising awareness regarding important town issues. To see our most recent publication, Important Easton Issues, visit our website at https://www.eastoneye.org/ .

Board of Finance Should Adopt the Board of Education’s Proposed Budget

To the Editor:

The Board of Finance should adopt the Board of Education’s budget proposal this year. Last year’s budget was not enough to sustain a complete and well rounded education for all students in our community.

Class size and staffing were two major concerns for our students’ experiences this year. Large classes in lower elementary school levels and limited access to a library for middle school students were the two most detrimental results of the reduced budget among other reductions. This year’s budget proposal will allow the town to regain more of the services and staff that our children need.  

We are undoubtedly entering into a future with economic uncertainty, but we must not be short sighted by short changing our children’s education. Despite our teachers’ best efforts, our students will have to catch up in many skills next year. If we have too small of a budget this year it will only compound the issues of regression, missed skills from this year, and progressing next year.

Our teachers will need more time and resources to adapt the curriculum for the next few years and larger class sizes will make the process of educating our students even more complicated and less effective. The long-term mental health effects of this quarantine are yet to be seen, but I am sure our school guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists will be needed in an even great capacity. The Board of Finance should adopt the Board of Education’s proposed budget.

Lara Fayek