Eliminating underclassmen athletics to be up for discussion

On Tuesday, the Board of Education heard feedback on a proposed budget. Feedback came from the Board of Finance, RTM Finance and Budget Committee, and RTM Education Committee. All three groups came to the same conclusion: the 2.75% increase year to year was simply too high. Recent events have actually pushed the increase to 3.01%, and the Board of Education is left looking for ways to come up with a more acceptable budget number. As the board went through the budget line by line, offering places that cuts might be made, board member Dennis Maroney asked for a discussion that left some mouths in the room agape.

Maroney asked for discussion on the possibility of entirely eliminating boys and girls freshman and JV athletics in Darien schools.

Maroney was also crystal clear that this was not a move he was actually advocating or even in favor of at all, but that he was simply, “Looking for a way to react to the speakers from tonight and we have to look at creative ways to deal with it.”

Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner cautioned that there was quite a great deal of work involved for such an endeavor. There are coaches, transportation, uniforms, equipment, and more for each team.

While other board members seemed incredulous that this was being brought up for discussion, Maroney maintained he was looking to have a conversation and come up with dollar amounts that could address the concerns heard that night regarding the budget.

The board goes through the budget line by line, and board members can say they have a particular place where they would like to add, cut, or just request a second look or more information from the administration.

There were also comments about reductions in other places in the budget such as clubs and councils. Board member Deb Ritchie moved to look at reductions to the clubs and councils budget at each school in the district. Substitutes, equipment and books, the proposed guidance counselor at Middlesex, the proposed assistant athletic director, furniture, and Fitch Academy were other areas where board members mentioned that a reduction, or add, may be in order. Board members did not have to offer any specific dollar amount to add or cut at the meeting, although they will be required to be specific at later meetings. The purpose is simply to illustrate parts of the budget where the board can make it clear they think further discussion is warranted, no actual binding changes are made.

The public hearing for the Board of Education budget is set for Jan. 30, and will be in the Board of Education meeting room as the town hall auditorium was unavailable. The budget document can be viewed on the Darien Public Schools website.