Friday, February 24, 2012

23-0 - DHS Girls Basketball Inspire.

Picture courtesy of Newstimes.
In case you missed it, there's something special going on at 43 Clapboard Ridge Rd.

The Danbury High School girls basketball team is on a tear. They completed the regular season undefeated and just topped a great championship run in the FCIAC tournament - winning their first league title.

Over the last several weeks I have stopped into the gym at DHS a couple of times and have been thoroughly impressed by the play of the Lady Hatters. Led by senior Casey Smith (who just hurt her knee at the last game) and sophomores Rachel and Rebecca Gartner, the team has jelled into one of Danbury High's best all time teams that have ever played at DHS.

Coach Jackie Dinardo has done an outstanding job teaching these young ladies and it shows not just in their excellence on the court, but in their poise and confidence off the court. Coach Dinardo has this team executing at every level, and they will be a force to be reckoned with at the state tournament.

So here's a tip of our Danbury cap to the DHS Lady Hatters on an outstanding basketball season and a great championship. The whole city is proud of you.

Good luck at the state's, we are with you all the way.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Danbury Main Street Partnership Kicks off First Meeting.

Last night the Danbury Main Street Partnership kicked off its first meeting at City Hall.

The Danbury Main Street Partnership consists of 10 members who were appointed by my office last month. The mayor sits on the partnership as a full voting member.

The objective of the organization is to promote the revitalization of the Downtown Revitalization Zone. The Downtown Revitalization Zone or DRZ, was created as an overlay zone by the Zoning Commission late last year to delineate an area of the Main Street corridor that we have targeted for investment and redevelopment.

While just an organizational meeting, it was good to see stake holders and business people from various walks of life engaged in discussions about the future of Main Street.

We set a regular schedule of meetings (the first Thursday of the month at 4 pm), a rough agenda for the next several months , and a format for the meetings.

Next meeting will be a briefing on the Main Street Renaissance Task Force report that was completed at the end of 2010.

This is a terrific opportunity to begin some critical thinking about our urban corridor and will gives us a vehicle to promote change and investment on Main Street

We have set aside time for public comment/input so feel free to attend the partnerships meetings.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Real Education Challenge.

Governor Malloy has decided to take on teacher tenure. While I applaud his interest in accountability and academic success for Connecticut’s children, I am not so sure that teacher tenure is the most important issue facing our public education system.
The most important thing that we can do for our public education system is address the gross inequities in the school finance system and then take steps to arrest the explosive growth of school expenses.
Every school district in the Greater Danbury area is asking for a substantial increase from their local municipality for the coming  school budget, every year school districts and municipalities across the state engage in what can sometimes be a rancorous debate about how much the budget will increase – most of the time the proposed increase far outpaces the rate of inflation. In many communities the school budget actually goes up even when the school population goes down (with the exception of Danbury - as we are growing).
The discussion is never about cutting the current budget, it’s always about “cutting the proposed increase” that has been requested by the local school board and the Superintendent of Schools.
Cities and towns are put on a never ending treadmill that their limited property tax base can’t possibly keep up with – leaving the property taxpayer to continually fund the increases. Bridgeport was the first community to hand the State of Connecticut the keys to the school district because of their inability to adequately fund their schools – in the coming years, I suspect more may follow.
The number one driver in these budgets are personnel costs divided between salary increases and health insurance. In many cities and towns, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, custodians, and other support personnel are the largest pool of municipal employees. Modest raises and changes to the health care benefit have a tremendous impact on the school budget. In Danbury, of the 7.2 million new dollars requested by the Board of Education, almost 4 million dollars are for benefits and wage increases.
The structural problems of education finance will continue and will accelerate in the coming years, leaving student outcomes as an after thought if the actual cost of education is not addressed.
The second piece of the puzzle is the ECS formula itself. I am thrilled that Danbury schools will receive more money under the proposed state budget. However, there is a structural flaw in the formula that short changes Danbury even with the increase that has been proposed.
Under the new budget Danbury will receive an increase of $1,696,559 or almost 7% to our ECS grant. That will make our total grant $24,554,515. Our student population is 10,505. All that sounds great - until you compare us with other communities in the state.
Bristol: Total ECS Grant – $43,047,496, student population?  8,762.
East Hartford: Total ECS Grant – $43,425,561, student population? 8,027.
West Haven: Total ECS Grant – $42,781,151, student population? 7,390.
New Britain: Total ECS Grant –  $73,929,296, student population? 10,854.
As you can see there is no rational reason why some districts who are much smaller than Danbury receive tens of millions of dollars more in aid or a reason that a district that is slightly larger than Danbury, receive almost three times our grant.
Teacher tenure? It’s important, no question. But, it will all be moot if we don’t grapple with school funding and school finance.
Kinda hard to worry about tenure when districts can’t afford text books and are busy laying off teachers..

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pictures from today's fire at Wheeler Dr.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. Nice work by the FD, and our EMT'S. The cat was found unconscious in the basement, he was resuscitated and doing well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's That Time of Year Again.

Recently the Board of Education and the administration of the Danbury Public Schools let in be known that their budget request for the 2012-13 fiscal year will require an additional 7.2 million dollars over their current budget.

The City Council and myself understand how important education is in our community. We understand that a solid education system is the foundation for so many other things within the City of Danbury. We get it, and we support the goals and the objectives as stated by the Board of Education and the administration.

But, we have to place the request in the context of the economy we are facing. Some of our families are under water on their homes, some of our families in Danbury have lost their homes to foreclosure, some are underemployed or haven't been able to find work. While we support the goals and objectives of the Board of Education, I believe that the City Council  would agree with me that there is no way we can saddle our taxpayers with a tax increase of $600 - $700 this year - it's just not practical or possible.

As the budget season ramps up, I would encourage you to follow the education side of the budget ledger, it is the largest portion of our budget and one part that the city administration has no control over.

Your attention should also be on the State of CT. The state has not increased dollars for education in years, yet continue to load on more and more unfunded mandates. Governor Malloy has said that this year will be the education reform year.

Perhaps he should start by getting serious about the Education Cost Sharing formula. In Danbury, you should ask the state why the 8th largest city in Connecticut, New Britain, receives 3 times the amount of state aid for education than does Danbury, the 7th largest city.

Doesn't make sense to me, and probably won't make much sense to you either - no disrespect to New Britain.

It's that time of year again..