David Freedman"Ensure a 0% increase. I believe we can do this through a series of open, transparent forums or focus groups to the all citizens to educate them about the budget and build support for the school system.
Tax-conscious citizens should know that their tax dollars are being used to provide the best education for our children and their tax dollars will help to increase the value of their properties and provide for economic growth for our town's future."
Kathy Hamilton"To ensure a successful budget referendum next year, the Board of Education needs to have a discussion about where we want to go as a school district, what can we manage within a year's time and what resources are required to meet our goals. Not all program improvements means spending money or doing it all in one year.
Additionally, if we bring in new programs, we need to take an accounting of the older programs and decide whether they are still appropriate. And, finally, we need to continue to review our overhead costs. One such way to reduce these costs is to look for operating processes that overlap with municipal processes. By combining these processes, we realize cost savings and provide more clarity. This past year the municipal and school payroll systems were combined. We achieved savings and a clearer process.
Also, we need to start meeting more regularly with both the Legislative Council and the Board of Finance to talk about what is happening in the schools. Then we need to include all other stakeholders in a discussion about the needs and goals of the school district. Stakeholders include all Newtown citizens – not just school age parents. I believe we will get buy-in if our expectations are reasonable."
Michelle Ku"Community involvement in our schools is the key to their success. We currently have a strategic plan, but a lot has changed since 2011, and we need to revisit the plan with input from all stakeholders - parents, teachers, administration and the community. By having a plan that outlines our community values, we can better make decisions about what is important.
In the same vein, it is important to involve the community in the budget process and have open and transparent discussions. Communication about issues such as declining enrollment, unfunded state mandates, fixed costs and the qualitative effects on education must be a part of these discussions.
And finally, cooperation between boards is important, as we learned from other communities when I served on Newtown’s Charter Revision Commission. As an example of this cooperative spirit, I would point to an effort that I spearheaded during the last budget referendum to get a variety of town leaders to sign on to an ad in the Bee to promote the budget. This is the cooperative spirit that will help our town to flourish, whether we are dealing with tough decisions or celebrating our successes."
Laura Main"I think the most important thing that needs to be done to have a successful budget process is to encourage and support open and honest dialogue and discussions about the needs of the schools. I believe that in educating people about the needs and being transparent about the costs is the best way to go.
I do believe some hard decisions will need to be made this year regarding the budget and my philosophy is that monies need to be allocated to the classroom. The tax-conscious citizen should know that as a BOE member, I would make sure that money spent has a direct impact on student achievement. I am well aware that there are many Newtowners who are struggling to make ends meet and placing a large tax burden on them is not possible in this economic climate."