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Hamden residents want fully funded education

Hamden residents want fully funded education
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HAMDEN — Teachers, parents, students and others spoke in support of a fully funded budget for public schools Wednesday night before Legislative Council.

The Board of Education approved a 4.76 percent increase from last year, which represents a little more than $4 million. However, in Mayor Curt B. Leng’s proposed budget, the BOE is looking at an approximately $2.1 million shortfall from the $88,520,334 budget the BOE approved.

Without a fully funded budget, Hamden public schools could be facing cuts to elective classes, teachers, sports programs, supportive services or more.

“It’s critical the superintendent’s budget is granted in its entirety,” resident Lawrence Stein said, adding the impact of the mayor’s proposed budget would be “devastating” to the schools. “The children of Hamden are our future. … If we don’t continue to improve our schools what will motivate people to come to our schools?”

The BOE is the town’s largest line item in its budget and combined with medical BOE expenses, the education budget represents 37 percent of the entire budget.

The superintendent has put forth a number of cost-saving measures, including district realignment, personnel reductions and energy cost savings, which include working with several energy companies to save a projected $1.5 million over three years.

But residents repeatedly asked the Legislative Council to fully fund the BOE budget needed to support public schools.

“We owe these teachers a budget that shows we appreciate them,” said resident Elizabeth Kearney D’Amico , who has a son kindergarten. D’Amico said that while the BOE’s $4 million increase sounds “crazy and maybe irresponsible,” it is not as steep as it appears.

D’Amico said fully funding the budget is necessary to attract families to town who contribute to the tax base. Many families she knows have chosen to live in North Haven, Bethany and Woodbridge over Hamden because of the school systems. Funding the schools “will go a long way to show education is a priority in this town,” she said.

Already this year, Hamden needed to make up for a $1.3 budget deficit mid-year, largely due to unanticipated special education costs. To cover this the superintendent asked full-time employees to take two furlough days as a $600,000 cost-saving measure and kept many positions vacant, including a school psychologist, math specialist and security guard.

Echoing a sentiment she shared Monday during the public hearing on the town’s budget, resident Jennifer Pope said, “All town employees should share the burden of the budget cuts. … Residents have been asked to pay more in taxes and teachers have been asked to take days off they did not agree to.” Pope asked the Legislative Council to consider the efforts teachers already have made in reducing the budget “instead of placing the burden on teachers because they’re nice people.”

Speaking before the council, Leng said the amount he proposed is not enough for the BOE’s needs, but by “working together we can find a number we can afford that won’t hurt our school system, one that will prepare our students for success.”

With the town facing around $6 million in cuts from the state, Leng said the town may not be able to provide the full number being asked, but “together we can find the right number.”


mdignan@hearstmediact.com



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