Newtown parents made one thing clear Thursday night at a public hearing in front of the Board of Finance: there's no price you can put on a child’s safety.
One after the other, parents and residents urged board members to budget for multiple armed police officers in all public schools, regardless of cost.
Head O' Meadow PTA President Laura Terry said the events of Dec. 14, 2012 changed her sense of security for sending her children to school and asked the board to have school resource officers (SROs) at every Newtown school to avert future tragedies.
“I understand the effects this has on the budget, but I’m willing to pay more taxes, we can’t afford not to,” she said. “Please help me protect my children.”
Many speakers, like Terry, said higher taxes are just something residents will have to accept in order to keep children safe.
“SROs are a necessity at this point,” said Newtown resident Michelle Hankin. “Security is non-negotiable. It’s something that we took for granted, but we can’t at this point.”
Others suggested volunteer work by parents to free up money in the budget so that SROs could be at every school. One man, who felt that Newtown residents “pay enough taxes already”, suggested select parents undergo training by uniformed police officers and have armed parents in all town schools.
“We as parents have a vested interest,” said Bill Stevens. “It’s something that might add more security and alleviate the budget concerns.”
Joanna Rosen, a clinical psychologist from Sandy Hook, said Newtown must create the perception of safety.
“We need to provide a foundation were we can be resilient at a time where we will have a struggle to get there,” said Rosen.
The current town budget, a 1.9 percent increase, has yet to include a recommendation by the police commission -- a change that must happen at the finance level, according to charter. First Selectman Pat Llodra said the inclusion of the 11 officers recommended by the police commission could lead to an increase of about 4% to the town budget.
Finance board Chairman John Kortze said the Police Commission has appointed a committee to look into which recommendations to make. Kortze asked the nearly 30 residents in attendance to bear with the board moving forward and that it is his intent to have the committee make a presentation to the Board of Finance as soon as possible.
The Board of Education is scheduled to present their budget to the board on Feb. 26, and the Board of Selectman is scheduled to present on Feb. 28, according to Kortze.
If Newtown is to add the 11 additional officers to its budget, it will have to do so at the Board of Finance level, Legislative Council chair Jeff Capeci told Patch. The board has power to put additional items in the budget, while the Legislative Council -- its final stop in the process before referendum -- does not.
"I'm afraid we're powerless if they don't get it in before the budget comes to us," Capeci said.