The public will have a chance to speak up about the 2013-14 Newtown town and education budgets as they move toward the crucial next step of the approval process at tonight's Board of Finance public hearing.
The Board of Finance's consideration of the budget is especially important, officials say, because unlike the legislative council, they can add items to the budget. The Newtown Police Commission has asked for a minimum of 11 new officers to staff each public and private school in town.
"I'm afraid we're powerless if they don't get it in before the budget comes to us," said Legislative Council chair Jeffrey Capeci at Wednesday night's meeting. Newtown's charter does not give the Legislative Council the power to add items.
First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Legislative Council Wednesday night the new officers could increase the municipal budget by about 4%, should they be included. By comparison, selectmen approved a town budget offering a 1.9% increase earlier in February.
A security commission made up of police and education officials has been meeting to consider recommendations, but Llodra said she doesn't know when the group will report and worries conflicting requests could put government at a "major disadvantage" as logistics are ironed out.
"What I think we need as responsible government is a document that says 'This is the plan we need going forward,'" Llodra said. "I think getting it in dribs and drabs is not in our best interests. I think it handicaps the budget process and confuses the community. We might find ourselves really having to delay action at the Board of Finance level. I've pushed as hard as I can."
Parent-Teacher Association members have appeared regularly at Finance, Education and Police Commission meetings to voice their support for the police increase. Earlier this month, the Head O' Meadow PTA unanimously voted to lobby for at least two School Resource Officers -- armed police officers who stay on school grounds -- in each Newtown public school.
"Parents are behind the schools, and behind the police departments," said parent Michelle Hankin at a police commission meeting in early February.
School resource officers come out of the town budget, not the schools, and so will face a vote separate from the the education budget thanks to Newtown's new bifurcated process. The Board of Education has asked for a 6.26% budget increase for the 2013-14 fiscal year, a number which includes 12 new unarmed security guards for schools.
The Board of Finance must submit the budget to the Legislative Council no later than March 14, per charter. A Legislative Council public hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 27, according to Capeci.
Want to go to the public hearing?
- When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:00 p.m.
- Where: Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose St.