To the Editor:
Every budget season CDSP/PTO representatives from all levels of our district present their well-researched testimony in support of proposed school budget increases. Typically, little time is spent during the speeches on worrisome state issues like unfunded mandates, dwindling state education aid including special education funding, underfunded teacher pensions, etc.
News recently broke that our district is facing State Senate President Looney’s misguided Senate Bill 454 (since renamed SB 738), which would force school consolidation among towns with less than 40,000 residents along their probate court boundary lines. For Darien, if enacted into law, it would force school district consolidation with New Canaan. However, the bill could easily be amended through the legislation process and pair the Darien schools with its neighboring cities, Stamford or Norwalk. While many point to the fact that the bill is only in its infancy, Senator Duff will not oppose the bill brought forth by his fellow Democratic party member.
The dilution of local control of our school district is an intolerable concept that would destroy a key uniting fabric of Darien. The fiscal ramifications would likely be just as untenable. While New Canaan and Darien share many similarities, the reality is that New Canaan is already facing significant fiscal challenges. New Canaan carries the highest debt per capita in the state — a debt balance that is two-times larger than Darien’s and carries annual debt service expenses that exceed Darien’s by almost 50%. Moreover, while Darien’s tax base is stable, New Canaan’s tax base is facing decline. Needless to say, the two neighboring cities to our east and west face much greater fiscal challenges.
Parents of Darien students need to become engaged in these issues before it’s too late. As the tsunami of state fiscal challenges overtakes Darien in the form of new and higher state taxes and little to no state aid, education service reductions are on our horizon. Let’s begin to plan a way to work collaboratively with the Board of Education and Board of Finance in order to meet this challenge.