Monday, June 27, 2011

Are Fairfield's parents paying attention to budget talks?

If a public hearing is held on the school budget and no parents attend to examine the proposal, what does it mean?

Such a thing happened in Fairfield County last Tuesday. Parents and other interested parties had an opportunity to discuss or ask questions about next year's budget, as required by law before the school board holds its regular meeting to adopt the plan. Their next board meeting is tomorrow night.

It's not that Fairfield's financial situation is so sweet that it runs on autopilot. In fact, there are some real issues to address.

The District’s $31,745,695 budget represents an increase in spending of $720,173, or 2.32 percent, over last year. The figure also represents a potential tax increase — something the School District has said it was not going to do this year. The potential increase, of approximately 6 mils, is more than twice the amount allowed by law. General fund revenues for 2011-2012 are budgeted at $31,397,035, a shortfall of $427,895.

A spokesperson for Fairfield County said the County would not be able to process an unbalanced budget from the School District. The tax increase would also have to be amended, they said. An increase of 3 mils is allowable, but would need the approval of County Council.
Although the budget will be approved by the Board at the June 28 meeting, the numbers are subject to change, the District said, contingent upon funding from the state. Right now, state revenues are budgeted at $7,066,401, a 15 percent decrease from the 2010-2011 numbers.

Here's hoping a few Fairfield residents will step up and pay attention.

P.S. Holding budget hearings in May, before parents leave for beach vacations, might help boost attendance at public hearings on the budget. That said, having a General Assembly and governor who adopt their own budgets early enough that local districts can get their own work done in May would be a real help, too.

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