Public Hearing On 99 Hawley Lane Development Postponed

Postponed by Developer

Editor’s Note:  A Change.org petition, Preserve Greenspace / Oppose Development of and around 99 Hawley Lane has been started.  According to organizers:

There is a proposal to develop the land along Hawley Lane behind the Big Y into a 129 unit apartment complex. This is currently green space, much of it wetlands home to peepers, turtles, deer, bobcat and countless birds just to name a few. It is full of trees and plants that sequester carbon, produce oxygen and provide home to many species of wildlife.

The development would not only destroy wildlife, but also flood the space with bright artificial lighting which is bad for migrating birds and nocturnal pollinators.  Traffic in the area is barely tolerable and more multiplex housing will congest the streets even more. Please sell this land to a Land Trust instead of developing it.

To sign the petition go to: https://www.change.org/p/preserve-stratford-greenspace-and-oppose-development-of-and-around-99-hawley-lane.

 

Inland Wetlands Commission Notice Of Public Hearing Postponement

June 15, 2022

The Public Hearing regarding the 99 Hawley Lane application that was originally scheduled for this evening Wednesday June 15, 2022 at 7pm in Town Council Chambers has been postponed at the request of the applicant. The Public Hearing will now commence on July 20, 2022. Additional public notice on this revised date is forthcoming in accordance with the Stratford Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations.

Please note that the Regular Meeting scheduled for this evening, Wednesday, June 15, 2022 will still be held beginning at 7pm in Town Council Chambers at Town Hall, 2725 Main Street, Stratford.

Preserve Greenspace / Oppose Development of and around 99 Hawley Lane

Public Hearing on Proposed Development on Wednesday.

Editor’s Note:  A Change.org petition, Preserve Greenspace / Oppose Development of and around 99 Hawley Lane has been started.

According to organizers:

There is a proposal to develop the land along Hawley Lane behind the Big Y into a 129 unit apartment complex. This is currently green space, much of it wetlands home to peepers, turtles, deer, bobcat and countless birds just to name a few. It is full of trees and plants that sequester carbon, produce oxygen and provide home to many species of wildlife.

The development would not only destroy wildlife, but also flood the space with bright artificial lighting which is bad for migrating birds and nocturnal pollinators.

Traffic in the area is barely tolerable and more multiplex housing will congest the streets even more. Please sell this land to a Land Trust instead of developing it.

To sign the petition go to:

https://www.change.org/p/preserve-stratford-greenspace-and-oppose-development-of-and-around-99-hawley-lane

Make your voice heard – here is your opportunity to speak up at a public hearing on the proposal.

Inland Wetlands Commission Notice

Public Hearing

Wednesday, June 15th at 7 p.m.

The Stratford Inland Wetlands Commission will conduct a public hearing on Wednesday June 15th at 7:00PM in the Town Council Chambers, pursuant to notice duly given and posted.

  1. Business to be discussed

2022-4: Construction of a 110,000 SF 129-unit residential apartment complex with 2,500 SF community building and associated parking and infrastructure. Address: 99 Hawley Lane. Assessor’s Map Reference: Map 20.16, Block 4, Lot 1. Applicant: Mountain Development Corp.

A regular meeting of the Inland Wetlands Commission will follow the public hearing.

Special Message: Any individual with a disability who needs special assistance to participate in the meeting should contact the ADA coordinator at (203) 385-4020 or 385-4022 (TDD), Five (5) days before the scheduled meeting, if possible.

Preserve Greenspace / Oppose Development of and around 99 Hawley Lane

Public Hearing on Proposed Development on Wednesday.

Editor’s Note:  A Change.org petition, Preserve Greenspace / Oppose Development of and around 99 Hawley Lane has been started.

According to organizers:

There is a proposal to develop the land along Hawley Lane behind the Big Y into a 129 unit apartment complex. This is currently green space, much of it wetlands home to peepers, turtles, deer, bobcat and countless birds just to name a few. It is full of trees and plants that sequester carbon, produce oxygen and provide home to many species of wildlife.  The development would not only destroy wildlife, but also flood the space with bright artificial lighting which is bad for migrating birds and nocturnal pollinators.
Traffic in the area is barely tolerable and more multiplex housing will congest the streets even more. Please sell this land to a Land Trust instead of developing it.

To sign the petition go to:

https://www.change.org/p/preserve-stratford-greenspace-and-oppose-development-of-and-around-99-hawley-lane

Make your voice heard – here is your opportunity to speak up at a public hearing on the proposal.

INLAND WETLANDS COMMISSION   NOTICE

PUBLIC HEARING

Wednesday, June 15th at 7 p.m.

The Stratford Inland Wetlands Commission will conduct a public hearing on Wednesday June 15th at 7:00PM in the Town Council Chambers, pursuant to notice duly given and posted.

  1. Business to be discussed

2022-4: Construction of a 110,000 SF 129-unit residential apartment complex with 2,500 SF community building and associated parking and infrastructure. Address: 99 Hawley Lane. Assessor’s Map Reference: Map 20.16, Block 4, Lot 1. Applicant: Mountain Development Corp.

A regular meeting of the Inland Wetlands Commission will follow the public hearing.

Special Message: Any individual with a disability who needs special assistance to participate in the meeting should contact the ADA coordinator at (203) 385-4020 or 385-4022 (TDD), Five (5) days before the scheduled meeting, if possible.

Town Hall Meeting

Superintend of Schools Uyi Osunde

In an unpresented move by the Stratford Superintend of Schools Uyi Osunde, a Town Hall Meeting was held on Wednesday open to all residents, students, and town officials.

The Town Hall Meeting was called by Superintendent Osunde, who has been on the job for 10 months, — to address misinformation, rumors, as well as the $123.2 million appropriation from the Town Council, which was about $2 million short of what it had requested during its budget proceedings earlier this year. The school board had asked for a 4.57% increase, which Osunde called a “bare bones budget,” but received 2.5% from the town.  Also participating was Pam Mangini, Chief Operating Officer, and Board Of Education chair Andrea Corcoran.

“People will be impacted, but we also feel that the design we’re piecing together to discuss with the board will allow us to open the school year with effective possibilities,” Osunde said.

Osunde said the district would have conversations with any staff member possibly impacted by budget cuts before the plan is released to the public.  “The decisions we make now will not just play out for the 22-23 academic year, there is a precipitous impact on how this plays out over the next five, 10 years,” Osunde said.

Stratford schools has been designated as an Alliance District, meaning it is among the 30 lowest performing districts in the state based on pre-pandemic figures. Osunde made it clear in the meeting that he does not think the designation accurately represents Stratford schools. He said he thinks the district has the infrastructure to turn things around quickly.

The designation will give the Board of Education an additional $1.1 million from the state, and Osunde said the district has to submit plans for how it will use this money at some point this summer. Mangini clarified that the funding cannot be used for purposes already accounted for in the general operating budget, like building utilities or staff supplies, which is also known as supplanting.

A summary of standardized testing data from the district was presented, which showed that students who took an afterschool SAT prep course the district offered scored 138 points higher on the exam in March than those who did not. Over 70% of the students who took the course met the goal for the English portion of the exam and 42% met the math goal. For comparison, just 40% met the English goal and 19% met the math goal for those who did not take the course.

The district is currently going through a strategic planning process, Osunde said. He highlighted five priorities for the district going forward — elementary literacy and numeracy, scientific research-based interventions with a focus on the middle school level, expanding SAT and AP prep access, climate and culture/school safety and instructional leadership.

He said that groups of himself, administrators, community partners, teachers and parents have been having weekly conversations about areas that need to improve, and that he remains a believer in the town’s schools.

“If I did not feel strongly about the potential of Stratford, I wouldn’t be here,” Osunde said.

Town Council Approves Budget

Mill Rate decreased by 0.01%

Schools Hot Topic

Special meeting on Town operating budget opened with an amendment to decrease the budget by $100,396,52, which was approved by all of the Republican’s on the Town Council. (Chris Pia, Ken Poisson, Jean Marie Sutton, Jim Connor, Bill O’Brien, Laura Dancho)

This reduction then brings our Mill rate to 39.46, a decrease from the original proposed mill rate of 39.47 (we now save .01%) Editor’s Note: on a property tax of $11,000 would save approximately $3.00.

Annual operating budget now: $248,995,500

Revenues

Board of Education:

State Educational Cost Sharing: funding, decreased over $1mm, budget now $25,147,165.

Stratford Alliance direct pay of $1,127,377 MM, included in town side on Educational Cost Sharing revenue, the town had to reduce that amount as Distressed Community Fund plus Alliance vs proposed budget, the BOE now gets more money,
Rosa DeLauro secured a Title 1 grant of $100K to Stratford.

Chris Timiak said that he thinks more money will come in for special education grants. He claims the state is sitting on a lot of money as they try to spend down money, “a lot on the table which I hope will be coming to Stratford.”

Property taxes: $438,571

State of CT Motor Vehicle: increase over $2,986,411

Other revenues
Sale of land: $450K

Premium on bond sales: over 35,609,812 ($900K bond premium, increases amount for next year’s bonds, amount was put into this year’s budget, interest on the $15.6MM of approved capital projects.

Town Clerk Conveyance Taxes Fee: increase $1,491,02

Expendures

Mayor’s salary: increase $12,945, (Mayor raise set by town council previously), plus staff salary increases, $318KK

Town Clerk’s Office: increase $377,103, Town clerk P/T, O

Contingency: $199,304

Debt Retirement: increase $6,655,202

Benefits (health insurance, etc.): $13,319,193

IT (includes payroll): $20,993,16,

Health Department: $21,168,818

Passed 7 to 3

The following suggested budget amounts were disputed by Councilman Greg Cann (D) Fifth District who proposed the following amendments:

Finance purchasing department reduction of p/t salary $24,375, administration has spoken about floating administration needs as needed, this is a sharing of in-kind personal, do resources exist to meet need if projects increase? Keep in budget.

Failed 4-6

Tax collector salaries 30% increase in previous years, another increase this year, outside services are used for processing, outsourcing, and software in budget to increase efficiency Should be corresponding savings and have a right size of salaries for this department?

Dancho, Budget decreased last year. Amount reduced.

Cann, budgets have gone from $38-$63-$87-$120, budget amount reduced to $115 this year, which seems to have room for a reduction.
Failed 4-6

Health Department; a blight officer can be invaluable for families that need to improve their property, but the Town now has 4 departments that work to eliminate blight. The town is in a deficient and we need $5.7MM to balance this budget, we should be looking at short time areas to utilize taxpayer savings.

Pia spoke forcibly about the need, pointed out a that the blight officer is a revenue position.

Cann compared other towns to Stratford’s blight officer salary.

Conner: Comparing Stratford to other towns is comparing apples and oranges. It is the mayor’s job to manage the town, not the town council.

Cann,, I’m just trying to invest in best practices. I know the town is not the same, but can we learn from other towns? Police and Health Department already go out to look at blighted properties; suggested health department could eliminate blight officer.

Connor, this would be revenue neutral.

Cann, my intention is to make BOE whole, Conner suggested we can give advice, this is advice, this is not ingenious to the person in office, but to learn better.
Failed 4-6

Amend Registrar of Voters: other municipalities do not have 3 people working full time, 12 months of the year. It is just not done. Are we in the best position to fund 3 full time employees all year? If we need more money for elections we can fund it.

Pia: 3 out of 4 amendments you have suggested are targeting individuals for political purposes and I do not appreciate that, I’ll tell you that right now.

Cann: Is the chair suggesting personal animosity? We are not always going to get money, right now we are balancing the budget with over $4mm from the state $5.7 from the feds. If you want to protect individuals that’s ok, but I’m just looking at there being an alternate and better way to do things, in the state and in other states, I just think that if no one else has need for 3 positons, why do we? I’m just suggesting another way.

Connors: this is has been an ongoing discussion for years, it is not a new suggestion, and we eliminated 1 person in last fiscal year no one talks about that! Overstaffed, incompetent, what is the singular issue that is a national speech, fraud! The only place we can defend freedom, Democrats whine that Trump was elected, Republican’s whine that the election was stolen. The one place we can increase safety, voting safety, you said yourself, if revenue neutral why bother. BOE is not going to get any more money, not going to matter. If you think Pia is suggesting it’s personal, it can’t be seen as anything but, this is serious stuff, democracy and freedom, you claim can be done better, general statements everybody does it better, if you want to say , some have different ways of staffing, they don’t always do it better. We have primaries, other towns throw that cost into the mayor’s budget, we are more transparent with a budget, if you want to say this to look good for FB, that’s OK.

Cann: We are the only municipality this size to have 50K residents, 20K voters, and 3 F/T positions. I don’t know if it will improve quality of office, quality of elections. This suggestion is based on comparative analysis and best practices, standard repetitive work, anytime a change is suggested it meets with resistance.

Sutton: Have you ever performed any of these positions in registrar’s office; (Cann: yes) I don’t believe you have with right to put democracy on the line.

Cann: Tasks for the registrar’s office outlined by the secretary of state, 99% clerical in nature.

Failed 4-6

Office of Mayor: minus $40K

Failed 4-6

Human Resources: salary, minus $15K

Failed 4-6

Payroll Town Attorney: salary item minus $5K

Failed 4-6

CAO (Chief Administrative Officer): salary, minus $18K

Failed 4-6

Cann: for a point of clarification, the numbers, salary decreases for at will employees, I know that they have not had a salary increase and are in for the increase in salaries in this years budget. They do deserve fair and equitable salaries, but we are relying on $5MM for state, $6MM from feds, is this the right time to increase salaries?

Connors: I’ve had 30 years in HR (human resources), and this is the worst hiring situation ever; people 23 years old are starting at $30 hr., if we are not competitive you are talking about stability, wanting not only voting to reduce salary, but voting to remove salaries from a morale standpoint I’m voting no.

Shake: in response to Connor, the effort to try and reduce mayoral appointees salary increases is an effort from this side of the aisle is a reflection to what is happening to the BOE budget. They have a similar problem of not being able to hire, yet have to maintain their staff, this is not personal or how good of a job one department is over another, it’s about how to find a better way to fund priorities.

Connors: not being able to hire teachers? They are unionized. I just think we need to keep stability.

Failed 4-6

BOE increase funding by $323KK

Connor: Pam (Pamela F. Mangini, Chief Operating Officer for the BOE) said that the BOE came in 4 years in a row with excess amount after town had cut budget, a surplus, that was in a 2% variance, we are in that window, which does not give you the right to threaten to fire teachers and close schools. They said they were hiring temps, which do not have benefits, it’s not going to happen, there is not going to be lay-offs, not the town council and mayors budget need to throw in more money, gone from $2MM to $600K shortage from BOE.

Editor’s Note: Any surplus from the BOE budget by law has to be turned over to the Town of Stratford. According to Mangini, in the last 5 years an average of 6.5% was given to town; almost $1.5 million in fiscal year 2021, Sodexo money was taken from this (a 10 year deficient now paid in full, and we are now in black); $712,650, in 2020; 2019, no money; 2018, $1.6mm given to town, cannot explain what happened to that money.

Shake; in an effort allocate more funding of 323K offered as amendment, thank you Jim Connor for bringing up organizations putting together budgets that are within the 2%, but because the BOE is not a negative, because it shows how they are managing their budget as always.

Dancho: if they were to get this $323, 937K it would not be revenue neutral, but would increase the mill rate, which we do not want to do. Part of our responsibility to not over tax our residents.
Shake: the previous amendments with reduction of salaries on non-union employees would cover the $323,937, it adds up to same amount.

Dancho; those amendments were voted down, so it would not be revenue neutral.

Closing Comments from Councilmen and Councilwomen on Conclusion of Budget:
Shake: positives, 3rd time doing budget, first time to have budget workshops where we have asked questions and had some answers given to us. First budget when we have arrived at a time when all amendments offered from both sides of the isle were discussed. Hope we can do this again to not waste time. Every single email we have all gotten from residents have supported fully funding the BOE. Have heard a lot of comments from other town employees about fearmongering, we have heard from speakers at the last Town Council meeting, they don’t want to close a school, not the decision that has to be made, like Tymniak said, if there is additional funding we learn to work better together as it is not working, and we are able to better fund.

Franceshi: Just find a better way to fund BOE. We don’t know who makes the decisions, but the BOE is very important, we don’t know where all the money goes and grants come from, we get, but we have to do right by children, they are our future.

Rice: when we think of taxpayers and services, great schools should always be the aim and the goal it creates. It insures a future for our children and our wellbeing, revenues and businesses.

Cann: I’m not a doctor, financial professional, nurse, radiologist, actuary, lawyer, but I spend all day working with those individuals; 40 years of business consulting I’ve been in many organizations and looked at so many tasks that have to be done, Through common sense and experience I can advise them on improving efficiency and quality for nearly every organization. We can plan for the future, if we couldn’t plan for the future we would not do any kind of a budget, and we can learn from others, and it would be negligent not be cognizant of efficiencies, like tax office, new software for budget efficiency. Thank you, I did not mean to be confrontational, but I am passionate.

Poisson: no comment, my vote will speak for myself.

Sutton: thanked all who helped her understand the process to go through each item line to line. I found this eye opening, as a taxpayer, single mother, PTA President. I have complete faith in all elected officials including the 7 BOE members, I do not appreciate the threat to close schools, this did not come from this side of the table, not our authority, not the superintendents, but the Board of Education. I appreciate the advocacy for students In town.

Connor: to Ms Shake, after 11 years budgets I was surprised that all 4 of you voted against giving money in the budget for the South end. There is a problem in this world where you voted no to the South end, you pulled that stunt on Monday, don’t know if you did it because you are new and not paying attention.

O’Brien: I’m the oldest one on this council, I love this town despite a lot negativity. I wish Greg could have analyzed the costs of administration of the BOE, but we don’t have the right. Public works, do their jobs very well, look at the roads compared to other towns, Shelton, Trumbull, Milford. Look at the blight compared to other towns. We have great, diverse and caring citizens, 9 museums that will be tourist attractions, Two Roads — many positives.

Dancho: I chaired the budget workshops and want to thank all who participated; this budget is a fluid budget that is not so static that it cannot be moved, things can change, many variables as year progresses; one of main goals is to lower mill rate, make it more affordable, no one wants of will let BOE fail, I love police, fire, public works, proud that we were able to lower mill rate for 5th time.

Pia: thank you to everybody, councilors working on first one, department heads, I appreciate everything you do. One thing I will take away with me as I leave here is how a small group of people keep the town running seamlessly. This is a good budget, mill rate flat, but to the BOE, this one was disheartening, to be honest, not because of true money but the rhetoric and fearmongering that people put out there. I don’t believe the budget was to send threatening emails and scare kids is really wrong, and to threaten to close schools with an $800K difference, is not right. For those of you here is the true facts, bottom line, departments come in with the true funding, Alliance $1.1 million, Rosa, $145K , health care down $375K, these new numbers were not in the original BOE budget, which has now drastically shrunk to a few hundred thousand. I want to thank Bedell, Henricks, and Kennedy, who I worked with and came in with new numbers that will not layoff 1 teacher or close 1 school.

Vote on Budged: Passed 6-4

State change to adopted car tax rate, for mill rate of car tax on July1st — tax levied 32.46 mills.

Passed 10-0

What is the mill rate for Stratford CT? 39.46

Special Taxing Districts Mill Rates (Apples to Oranges?)

CT Town Mill Rate Real & Personal Property Mill Rate Motor Vehicle

Stamford 26.94 27.25
Sterling 31.94 31.94
Stonington 23.85 23.85
Stratford 39.46 39.46

Stratford Budget Presentations to Ordinance Committee

Note: Budget to be presented and voted on in the May 9th Town Council Meeting

Economic Development budget: $283 K, 2.8% increase; $300 Uniform Allowance

  • Karen Doyle raise
  • Planning and Zoning revenues projected to be the same. 6% increase
  • Veronica Cortes, Program Assistant at Town of Stratford , Health Department and Building, raise.

Library:   4% increase, asked for 4.11%; budget $3,472,506

  • This includes all salaries, retirement plans, benefits, health insurance costs.
  • , 1 unfunded liability for a retirement; 11% education and travel,

Materials, electronic equipment, strategic plan professionally, is paid for by library fundraisers and Library Board.

Note: 60% of all Stratford residents have a library card.

Registrar of Voters Office: 1.27% increase in budget.

Staffing of polling places; last year primaries and specials account was not touched funds still in place. This year they anticipate special elections and primaries.

Simon, requested registrars salary be reduced to part-time.  “We pay more than anyone in state (average 35K; all hands on deck, administrative assistant, Judy Scala, works with other departments would like to split salary (floater) ½ registrar.

Using last year’s election, 10K absentee, most of the handling and processing done by town clerk’s office. April-August slow, and could be easier.

Chris Pia: 20-30 hours a week for P/T, benefits? Asked for comp with other towns.

Chris Tymniak, Chief Administrative Officer, and Mayor Hoydick against going to P/T, future of office will be full-time no election issues part time, when you have to be prepared at all times. Administration assistant working with other departments strictly due to pandemic, she is an at will employee, organizing that would cost more than the $4,000 they would save by her being a floater.  Tymniak noted that the position is not a hobby

Laura Dancho:  Would a part time position compromise election integrity?

According to DiCillio going part-time would be 68 cents a minute per household savings.

Public Safety: Police Department, 105 officers

Expenses: salary increases, wages, training, surveillance cameras, psych and drug testing.

Reported crimes down;  Juneteenth holiday added this year, (as well as other holidays including graduation) costs 50K (Juneteenth was last holiday added).

Revenues: tickets, almost $300K, just raised cost of tickets to $25

Fire Department:  There was a Reduction of $221K from 2021 budget.

Suppression: biggest increase in maintenance, min 8% on purchases and maintenance (most of which is in-house); parts more expensive; have to do a major 5 year plan on equipment.

Prevention: smoke detection in every house in this town. Partnered with American Red Cross, who provided smoke detectors, early warning.  Since Aug. over 500 smoke detectors installed. Red Cross model for other communities now. Hearing impaired study, fire marshal did study and applied for grant got over $60K for bed shaking and light fire detectors, 261 units.

Also applied for a grant for training for below grade and steep grade rescues, got $28K.

Big purchase fire apparatus combo rescue and pumper truck, co-chief and deputy chief got information to Chief before December, which saved the town 66K, just for getting in on time then saved 32K by prepayment to purchase a pumper.  The price over was over $80K.  Will try to sell old truck.

Budget for administration salary increases was in line with union contract.

New buildings inspection – fire marshal, 3 deputies, secretary: designed a system to inspect family homes (where people sleep), condos, like Deerfield woods, all common areas auto, it is almost impossible to do individual units in an apartment building.

EMS

Larry Ciccarelli, Director of Public Safety for town delivered budget information, as it is part of his Public Safety position; Ciccarelli is also responsible for school safety; Registered EMTs were budgeted for a wage increase as of July 1st, from $17-19 hour to $25, which is market value.  Paramedics will go to $32 hour.  It was noted during the presentation that there is a statewide demand and need for EMTs and EMS staff.

Public Works  4.2% Increase; head count down by 1 ½

Tom Albert presented budget information, Raynae Serra, Director of Public Works was on Zoom: the 4.2% increase is for administration, employees, union employees and part time employees.

Deputy Director and Head of the Highway Division were going from salary to stipend;

Building maintenance: payroll, elevators, fire extinguishers, etc.

Engineering Dept.; office employees get a raise, everything else flat.

Highway: increase for salaries; equipment services (maintenance), gas and oil.

Town garage: budget increase for payroll; public works does not budget for snow removal, any savings from snow removal goes into capital budget.  Line items: town road aid, which comes from state and usually via FEMA.

Parks: increase due to contractual obligations; increase in O/T demand higher, employees work 7 days a week; increase in town events means more maintenance required; 2nd shift gets more work and more efficient, which saves on O/T.

Garbage/Recycling: costing more money to recycle and dispose of trash; tipping fees increased from $2mm to $2.8mm to recycle and trash removal, this was state wide, increased trash fee, number is still high, has not gone down from prepandemic, spring cleaning, 2020 garbage 25K tons, now 27.5K tons which includes bulk pick up, yard waste, and recycling.  Rising fees on rising tonnage.

Recycling fees are paired to the market price of recycled items, $41.69 a ton, 2021 it was $72 a ton. Market goes up and down.

Refuse, 2021 $64.69, now 65.69; yard waste is $42 a ton, cardboard and glass we get paid for. Have to separate cardboard or it goes into refuse.

Recreation increase was through minimum wage; summer help; supervisor has added more staff for every age group.

Razors Edge contracted, per diem for tree work town cannot get to, or a very large tree they cannot handle. Staffed appropriately to handle tree complaints.

Board of Education:  Chris Tymniak, Chief Administrative Officer – BOE represents the biggest variables in the town budget because of the Alliance program designation and the state educational bill funds which have not been decided.  What the Alliance grant will be and when will it be implemented is unknown. It could be $5.6-5.8mm hold in town revenue side.

Dr. Uyi E. Osunde, Superintendent of Schools, was not present due to a previous commitment and the late decision by the Town on the date to hold budget hearings.  Several request were made to schedule the meeting at another time, but the town is under a state mandate to complete our budge by May 12th.  Dr. Osunde is expected to give his presentation next week.

Pamela F. Mangini presented BOE budget. She is the Chief Operating Officer for the BOE, which held 5 budget workshops before submitting the request for a 4.57% increase over the current budget.

4.1 % of the budget is not salaries and benefits, which was shifted to The ARP ESSER (show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic.)

These new initiatives are not included in budget, as it would have been over the 4.57%

It is not realistic to operate at status quo.  There is presently 6,870 students in our school system, an increase of 152 students.

75% of the BOE budget is salaries and benefits.  Utilities and operational expenses- very little wiggle room.

5% of budget actually discretionary.  BOE took a harder look this year because of the new superintendent, as they looked efficiencies they looked at vendors contracts.

Health insurance: 2 year renewal, there was a 7% increase at Brown and Brown, they negotiated and it was decreased 6.1%.

Transportation:  ½ million increase due to special education transportation increase, 1.5% increase for next several years, no further savings.

Eliminated: $270K savings, 4 positions, all teachers, no administrators, over 1MM saved.  Administrators funded now by pandemic money.  BOE was encouraged by town to use that funding, which is problematic.

Chris Pia thought the town was correct in using ESSA funding.  Pia also agreed that it was dangerous rolling debt down the line.  What she did (Janet Robinson, former superintendent) did not work which is why we are Alliance now.

Alliance grant cannot be used to supplant general operating costs, for students supplement student enrichment.  Funds will be monitored closely and tested for outcomes.

Laura Dancho, They do not throw money at programs that do not work. No one is saying that education is not important. This would push the mill rate to over 40, we have to look at everything. Have to look at ESSA and Alliance. Were there any savings in prepays which is spread over schools.

There is savings, not sure at this point what they are.

Contractual amounts: general wage increase tied to teachers and custodial unions, all salaries, 2.5 and 3% without steps, steps would ramp that up; head count was with people in position at that time.

Pia: what we are doing is not working, are we going to continue to fund even though not working?  At end of day we will have to make changes to what we are doing. Facts not here at this time.

Kaitlyn Shake: what would happen if they didn’t get the increase. With the 2.5% the town wants what happens to special ed? 2020, $2.2mm surplus, 2021, $1.25 surplus, now we have a deficit, what happened? All of a sudden in red. When I hear that educators have to be creative, it raises red flags. This concerns me.  Are suspensions up or down? Do we have staff to address behavioral needs?

By law you cannot touch special ed, we have already removed placements, each student added increases special ed reserve fund.

We set a budget like a grocery list, you have a budget and after shopping, met the budget, and then the surplus funds go back to the town. BOE has given back in last 5 years 6.5%; $1.1mm in 2020, money was to be set aside for use in next budget.

In the last 5 years an average of 6.5% given to town; almost $1.5 million in fiscal year 2021, Sodexo money was taken from this (a 10 year deficient now paid in full, and we are now in black); $712,650, in 2020; 2019, no money; 2018, $1.6mm given to town, cannot explain what happened to that money.

Budget year will end in red: $750K or at end 1/2mm deficient, $2.4mm deficient in special ed.

Salary freezes and spending freezes done in October. Never expected these savings to help budget, sounded alarm giving town to adjust their budget to our deficit.

Jim Conner: there are hidden costs to public works.  As for the 40 mill rate, I’ve done 11 budgets, as a real estate agent I know that you do not go over 40 mills, if we give the 4.75% increase we then have to take it out of the town budget. 10 people will say give increase, 10 people, no more taxes.

(Public Works: Estimate 60K with O/T of over 90K for BOE; EDOO1, over $15mm in kind services in 2021 town budget which included debt services and interest, professional technical services, salaries, $7mm, what the town pays the BOE that is not in BOE budget.)

Bill O’Brien: What are clinical costs, 2.8mm, cost of students, and I am hearing that there is a lack of respect and discipline in schools, it has to be said.

Clinical costs relates to special ed students, it is a required service.

Lesette Franceshi: How are suspensions handled, what does that look like?

Lot of time and energy for emotional supports for students; Superintendent can address better. Suspensions have to be reported to state.

Laura Dancho: Do not want to see STEM and art reduced in schools.

Chris Tymniak: Regarding the Alliance funding, the town has been working with Superintendent. The distressed community funding gave lump sum payments.  Town has $4.6mm hole because they expected $4.6mm in distressed communities funding, town got $100,000.

We do not know how much, or when, we get Alliance money, once we know we can give better numbers.  Every year is a jigsaw puzzle, what is important is when the state requires town to have budget in place.  Every budget a guess. We do want to fund education, we have a reserve fund, and we don’t want BOE to be in deficit.  Alliance funds unknown, commissioner of education been questioned.  Big thing is that we have been put into program, the program is outdated.  In 2012 30 towns were marked for the Alliance, 10 years later add Stratford and they had a look back to 2012.  We are working with the legislature to make sure Stratford is not penalized with $10mm, we want to start flat like the other towns.  What constitutes what works and what does not? All of these grants create guidelines the intent is to better education for students in Stratford. New program has to be submitted to State Education Board.  Budget has to be settled by May 12th

Dancho: what do we say when residents want to know why we are not fully funding BOE?

Tymniak: After budget printed, we were notified we were in Alliance, but now we have to figure out what grants with revenue changes will be given to us.

Shake: compare town increase to BOE increase. What was the number?

49.4% BOE budget, town side 50.6%, minus .2 for EMS assessment. There was a 4.25% increase in town operating expenses being more than BOE is all our debt, all of those variables, bonding for high school, pensions, etc.  Less revenue, not putting distressed communities investment income in budget, changes overall would not look like town getting more than BOE

BOE at 2.5% meeting contractual obligations.

Alliance money will go direct to BOE.

Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport

Draft Environmental Assessment

Pursuant to Title 49, United States Code, Section (§) 47106(c)(1)(A), notice is hereby given, that the City of Bridgeport is proposing safety improvements to Runway 11-29 at Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR). In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared and is available for public review and comment. The Draft EA identifies the proposed action, project alternatives, and presents an evaluation of potential environmental impacts. The Draft EA can be viewed and downloaded by going to http://www.planbdrairport.com/content/documents/

The proposed improvements, as shown on the FAA-approved Airport Layout Plan (ALP), include reconstructing portions of Runway 11-29, shifting the runway to the west approximately 150 feet, grading non-standard Runway Safety Areas (RSAs), installing Engineered Materials Arresting Systems (EMAS) on both ends of the runway, miscellaneous pavement removal, and removing both on and off airport obstructions (trees) to the approach surfaces of Runway 11-29. The project does not extend the length or capacity of the runway. Copies of the Draft EA can also be reviewed during regular business hours at the following locations:

Stratford Public Library
2203 Main Street
Stratford, Connecticut 06615

Bridgeport Public Library
925 Broad Street
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06610

The Draft EA identifies the proposed action, project alternatives, and presents an evaluation of potential environmental impacts. The 253 page Draft EA can be viewed and downloaded by going to:  http://www.planbdrairport.com/content/documents/

Our Schools – Our Children – Don’t Cut Budget

April 11th Town Council Meeting

Background

On February 28th the Stratford Board of Education voted on a proposed 2022-2023 operating budget that was a 4.57% increase over the current year’s adopted budget. This budget was proposed after a series of budget workshops, the Superintendent and his staff to consider all possible ways to enhance the efficiency of our schools’ funding. The BOE proposed budget is a responsible and necessary step to meet our contracted financial obligations and respond to the evolving educational needs of our students. The increase is fueled primarily by our rising contractual obligations and the growing needs of our students with exceptionalities. These areas alone require a 4.1% increase in the budget.

The Stratford Board of Education voted on a proposed 2022-2023 operating budget of $125,679,660, a 4.57% increase over the current year’s adopted budget. BOE proposed budget: https://www.stratfordk12.org/…/2022-2023_Proposed…

On March 12th, the Mayor submitted her proposed budget to the Town Council which significantly undercut the amount that our schools require. The budget recommended a 4.25% increase in the town’s operating portion of the budget, but only a 2.5% increase for the Board of Education. A 2.5% increase would create a significant gap in what our schools need to meet the educational needs of our students. Mayor’s proposed budget: https://www.stratfordct.gov/…/Proposed_Operating_Budget

This is devastating and would result in some very difficult cuts at a time when our schools and students need it the most. Students are struggling across the country because of the challenges of COVID and our students are struggling in particular. Stratford has just been designated as an Alliance district – which means we are one of the 33 lowest performing towns in the state.

Some of our financial difficulties were temporarily veiled by COVID funding. Last year the Board funded several staff positions with COVID grants due to underfunding, but this funding is temporary and without sustained direct investment from the town, we will face even more cuts.

On April 20th, the Ordinance Committee will hold a budget workshop on the BOE section of the overall town budget and decide on what the increase will be. The public will not be allowed to speak at that workshop.  This workshop is scheduled during the April school break despite multiple requests by the BOE to move the date so stakeholders could be present. This was also a point of contention of those who attended and spoke during the public forum of the Town Council meeting on April 11th.

At the April 11th Town Council meeting there was support from several residents regarding this budget.  Those speaking against the budget cut were: Andrea Corcoran, Board of Education Chair, Andrea Veilleux, Chris Greene, and Alicia Duncan.  No one during the public forum spoke in favor of the budget cuts, and in fact they all reminded the Town Council that a strong school system is crucial to the success of any town or city and its ability to thrive economically. This requires a commitment to invest in educating our students.

Why We Need More Funding For Our Schools

Our students are struggling, and Stratford has just been designated as an Alliance district – which means we are one of the 33 lowest performing towns in the state.

In a letter to parents March 30th Superintendent Uyi Osunde explained that the town’s public school system has been recognized as an Alliance District by the state.

Alliance Districts are those in the state with the lowest accountability index data — a 12-variable metric used to track a district’s performance. “The Alliance District program is a unique and targeted investment in Connecticut’s lowest-performing districts,” Osunde wrote. “We are one of three other districts added to the Alliance District list which was compiled using pre-pandemic accountability index data. While this is not the optimal news we want, it comes with some pragmatic opportunities for improvement driven by the district’s overall strategy to improve academic performance and achievement for its children.”

The designation as an Alliance District means that the district will have access to additional state funding.  Stratford has not yet been notified of the funding appropriation it will receive but is hoping to find out the final figure before May, so it does not impact its planning phase, Osunde said. According to the Connecticut Department of Education a total of 25 of the 33 districts in 2019-20 received at least $1 million in funding, including seven that exceeded $10 million.

Some of our financial difficulties were temporarily veiled by COVID funding. Last year the Board funded several staff positions with COVID grants due to underfunding, but this funding is temporary and without sustained direct investment from the town, we will face even more cuts.  The Town needs to stop funding our educational system with “handouts” and develop a real balanced budget that does not break our backs in the future when bonded items come due.

The Brookings Institute did a study on The Effects of Investing in Early Education on Economic Growth, as Economists have long believed that investments in education, or “human capital,” are an important source of economic growth.

Economic Development is the creation of wealth from which community benefits are realized. It is more than a jobs program; it is an investment in growing your economy and enhancing the prosperity and quality of life for all residents.

Education tends to raise productivity and creativity, as well as stimulate entrepreneurship and technological breakthroughs. All of these factors lead to greater output and economic growth.

The designation of our Stratford school system as an Alliance District is just another blow to our Town’s reputation and indicative of a town lacking in governance.  Is Stratford the most financially stressed municipality in Connecticut? According to the Hartford-based Yankee Institute, the answer is yes.

The think tank focuses on state government, and recently updated its 2018 report “Warning Signs” that claims the town is overburdened by its pensions to government employees. Town officials and finance experts, though, say the findings utilize a specific set of data to prove a pre-ordained point.

For the second year in a row Stratford was designated one of the 25 distressed municipalities in the state, indicating poor fiscal capacity. This is important information to understand as Stratford is readying to receive substantial amounts of money from the federal government and the state of Connecticut. There needs to be a sense of urgency to break the downward spiral and move toward recovery and growth.

What exactly are distressed municipalities?

  • aging housing stock
  • low wealth (Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List)
  • low per capita income
  • low or declining job creation growth rate
  • low or declining population growth rate
  • low or declining per capita income growth rate
  • high unemployment
  • high poverty
  • low high school degree and higher

As Stratford residents we all need to pay attention to who, what, where, and how our Town is going forward.  Are you happy with our development?  Are you happy with our environment?  Are you happy with our school system?  If not, reach out to your Town Council member and have a conversation.

Remember:  A strong school system is crucial to the success of any town or city and its ability to thrive economically. This requires a commitment to invest in educating our students.

 

Zoning Commission Meeting on March 23rd.

Broadbridge Development

On Wednesday, March 23rd at a Zoning Commission Public Hearing over 18 concerned Stratford residents showed up to weigh in on Gold Coast Properties, LLC, a Stratford-based developer, who requested a change of Single-Family Zoning to Multi-Family Zoning in order to build around 35 units of housing per acre of land along both sides of Broadbridge Ave in Stratford.

Attorney Barry Knott, who represents Gold Coast Properties, opened the meeting by noting that in meetings with Jay Habansky, Planning and Zoning Administrator, the original petition to the Zoning Board had been amended with the following changes:

  1. Eliminated the area between Barnum Avenue and Success Avenue from development, as that area is densely populated with single-family homes.
  2. Reduced coverage from 60% to 40%
  3. Number of units per acre would be 20-25 at market value; 25-30 if 10% affordable (referred to as workman housing), 30-35 units if age restricted.
  4. Open space increased to 15% from 10%.

Attorney Knott noted that all of the proposed changes fit into the Town’s POD.

Following residents speaking in opposition to proposed Text Amendment:

  • Velotti, 2850 Broadbridge Avenue – questioned sewer capacity
  • Sweeley, 197 Short Bech Road – objected to zone change
  • Rainey,206 Red Brid Drive – objected to density, grade of material and parking
  • Campofiore, 6 Red Brid Drive – density and effects on environment
  • Callahan, 271 Castle Drive – discussed spot zoning and traffic
  • Kalkay, 3124 Broadbridge Avenue, traffic
  • Stewart, 3125 Broadbridge Avenue – traffic
  • Gloriosa, 2890 Broadbridge Avenue – traffic
  • Safardiu, 2910 Broadbridge Avenue – Traffic and density
  • Leslie, 1551 Broadbridge Avenue – Drainage and traffic
  • Topalski, 150 Carol Road – objects to multi-family housing, traffic
  • Dancho, 10th District Councilwoman – Discussed zoning regulations and traffic
  • Cann, Councilman, trffic, no sidewalks, drainage and need to adopt town-wide regulations for housing
  • Hoydick, Mayor, Feels Zoning needs to review Section 5.3, cannot compare this project to TOD and complimented previous speakers
  • Resident, 2688 Broadbridge Avenue – Density and Traffic
  • Resident 54 Striekfus Road – traffic
  • Resident, 95 Red Bird Drive- density
  • Resident, 707 Hawley Lane – traffic

Entered into record opposition signatures along with numerous letters and e-mails received from residents.

A motion was made to table the proposal until a printed hard copy with all of the changes was submitted to the Zoning Commission.

Unanimous Vote to Integrate Adult-Use Cannabis into Existing Medical Cannabis Regulations

Zoning Commission Meeting March 23rd

“You can smoke marijuana, you can eat it, you can wear it, it’s a perfect plant!” ~ Tommy Chong

In outlining the integrating of adult use cannabis in our present regulations, Jay Habansky, Zoning and Planning Administrator, noted that most of the changes would be removing the word “medical” and replacing with “adult-use”. He reviewed letter dated February 24th regarding regulations. Noted DEEP had no comments. Most Health Department recommendation were included. Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation with additional comments. There can be two (2) adult-use facilities in Stratford, which would be heard under Special Case criteria. He addressed potential traffic issues. Mayor Hoydick and John Caissey spoke in favor of Text Amendment.

Seeing no other members of the Public who wish to speak, Deion Francis made a motion to close Text Amendment. The motion was seconded by Len Petrucelli. The motion carried unanimously.