Across the state and across the nation, there is a reminder of the wreckage of the current economic recession. It is cities and towns, large and small, that are all wrestling with the same financial and budgetary issues.
As the cost of educating students continues to escalate, as contracts and employment agreements with Board of Education employees have not been adjusted to match the current economic climate, communities are struggling to fund the basic education of our children.
Forget about NCLB, CMT's, CAPT tests, and all of the high standards that the state and federal government are fond of demanding, but not so fond of funding, right now, in most communities, it is survival time for their respective school system.
Pension costs and health care costs are- as Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven has stated, the "Pac Man" of municipal budgeting. Gobbling up any discretionary dollars or any money that might be available to execute improvement plans, hire staff, retain staff or develop new programing.
Of the Board of Ed's budget, $21 million is for health care for its employees. Not included in the Board of Education's budget is a $1 million payment that City of Danbury must make to the pension fund for the BOE's employees that do not participate in the State Teachers Retirement Fund.
This year I have proposed a $1 million increase to the operating budget for the Board of Education. The Board of Education is asking for $4.2 million of new funding.
Over the last 10 years. the City of Danbury and its taxpayers have been proud to invest in public education. Our operational budget for the BOE has increased by 32% -- yet our student population has grown by just 11%.
These dollars do not include investments in two new elementary schools, renovations to Rogers Park Middle School and Broadview Middle School as well as dozens of smaller projects that the taxpayers of the City of Danbury are paying back through our debt service.
Today, our taxpayers are under more pressure than ever before.
In 2010 there were 187 foreclosures in the City of Danbury. In 2005, there were 7.
Unemployment in the Greater Danbury Area has reached 8.2%.
On top of that, Gov. Malloy is proposing a significant number of new taxes that will hit Danbury families hard.
Going forward, we must work together to find new ways of doing business. That means that the State of Connecticut, the Federal Government, and our unions must be at the table with our Board of Education to change the way that services are delivered so that we can reduce cost.
Our current path of multi-million dollar increases to the Board of Education every year is simply unsustainable.
It's the "New Normal" let's get used to it..