Don't further cut the school budget, residents protest

DARIEN — There were supposed to be two budgets discussed but residents focused their attention on one: the education budget.

Co-Chairs of the Council of Darien School Parents Beth Lane and Wendy Ward were the first to speak Tuesday, noting the increasing role of technology in schools and supporting the investments made by the Board of Education.

“We do support this budget — we don’t support reckless spending and understand that our town faces the prospect of losses in funding. Hard decisions will have to be made and no one knows more about the cost of our schools than we parents,” Ward said.

In January, the education budget represented a 2.75 percent increase over that of the current fiscal year. When the budget came to the finance board, it had been reduced to a 2.34 percent increase or $98,122,266.

The town budget, on the other hand, came in at a 1.05 percent decrease from the current fiscal year, amounting to a total of $45,689,237.

The finance board, which did not discuss town nor education budget details, listened to a total of 12 speakers who all addressed the budget pertaining to the schools.

Hope Barton, the Parent Teacher Organization co-chair at Holmes Elementary School, brought up the need for capital investments at the elementary.

“There’s no question that the roof of Holmes needs replacing, there are currently large, blue tarps scattered in the library. Last Friday there was damage to books, furniture and carpeting — I recognize this is a large cost, but it’s a priority,” Barton said.

The majority of the speakers alluded to the attractiveness of the Darien school system and one of the reasons as to why families choose to move to the area.

Around 40 residents attended the hearing at Darien Town Hall.

The education budget was presented to the finance board last week.

Board of Selectmen officials, Representative Town Meeting members, Board of Education Chairperson Tara Ochman and Superintendent Dan Brenner attended the hearing.

The Board of Finance will continue its review of both budgets, next meeting on March 20, eventually handing them off to the RTM who will issue a final approval in May.