The Soap Box

School Budget Cut

By Timothy Bristol
https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-bristol/

On Wednesday night the Town Council passed the Mayor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The new budget would lower the mill rate by .01 and give the Stratford schools just over $2 million dollars less than what the Board of Education requested.  The Board of education proposed a budget of $125.7 million dollars while the Mayor’s budget only gives them $123.2 million dollars. Stratford Town Council has been playing this game with the education budget for some time.  It has hurt Stratford Schools. In a Connecticut Post article from last month, it was noted that Stratford Schools have been recognized as an Alliance District by the state due to its low-performance metrics.

One would think that this would be a wake-up call for the Town Council and the mayor’s office to stop shorting the education budget, but it has not deterred them from doing so.

When protests were organized on Monday, the council chair Chris Pia said, “The Council’s task is running a budget for 55,000 people, there’s a good block of taxpayers that don’t have kids in the school system, that don’t want their taxes going up.”]

Reducing the mill rate by .01 mills is nothing, it’s not even a real reduction in taxes. The town council likes to believe they are lowering taxes every year by these tiny reductions in the mill rate but in reality, most homeowners have seen their tax bills increase.

It is extremely disappointing that the administration and the town council don’t see that our schools need funding now more than ever. The Covid pandemic has only made things worse for our schools over the last 2 years.

Both teachers and students have struggled during the pandemic, but the students are the ones who are left out in the cold when schools aren’t fully funded. The council’s reason for not funding the schools fully is ridiculous; the whole social contract of a town with public education is that everyone pitch in for the good of the whole town.

Imagine if people only paid taxes to the town departments that matter to them. Nothing would get funded. We are a community, and we should be acting like a community. Schools are important; Students need an education that can prepare them for the future.

I am most disappointed in my Councilwoman, Jean Marie Sutton. She claims to advocate for the schools and a supporter of the students. But when it comes to making the right call, she would rather tow the Republican line instead of standing up for the schools. When the schools really needed her, she would rather pretend to lower taxes than give the schools an extra 1% in their budget. I’m sure this is not the last time she will choose party over the town’s needs.

So where does this leave Stratford schools? Teachers are laid off, programs cut and potentially a school being closed. I hope that these things do not happen and that the schools can get their funding from outside programs and grants because the town council does not seem willing or able to do so.

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