Saturday, April 10, 2010

Milford's Budget Deliberations Draw Crowd

This years budget deliberations will begin in earnest and with the voice of the people of Milford who will own up to it and fund the city. City hall was attended by a great deal of city employees last Thursday night. Teachers who are in fear of losing their jobs were all dressed in pink as a show of solidarity and in unison voiced their plea to keep their jobs this year.

Some members of the community, myself included attended the gathering and voiced our opinions at the podium. There was much criticism of the wasteful spending by the Republican administration that has contributed to the job insecurity that our teachers are experiencing.

Aggregate to this years budget woes many people in government and education have automatic raises built in to their contracts. Each year they have the option to forgo those minimal raises to save the jobs of their newer co-workers who have not yet been afforded the protection that tenured teachers enjoy. In essence the raises of the senior teachers and city employees are what dictates the increase in the cost of education. Additionally Health insurance and benefits have also increased contributing to local economic instability.

During these "Great Recessionary times" most newer city employees are fearful of losing their jobs, and many in Milford living on the edge are afraid they will not be able to afford their property taxes in the years to come. The stage is being set for tax increases that will further strain the limited disposable income that is available to Milford's homeowners.

Senator Gayle Slossberg, in a telephone interview made it clear that the state of Connecticut is in "Dire Straits" and that "little to no help" can be expected from Hartford. She said "Milford will have to make do like the rest of the towns in CT who are in the same position... Hartford is looking to get its budget balanced to avoid its own consequences." Gayle did not know how long this recession was going to last, but was optimistic in Milford's ability in being able to solve its own interim problems until she is able to procure more funding from the state.

The event was well attended by the local press, the chairman of all three local political parties were represented and now the time begins to start the difficult process of saving jobs, and keeping property taxes from getting out of control.

The ultimate solution to this ongoing budget saga, according to acting School Superintendent Michael Cummings may be to "revive the idea originally initiated by former Superintendent Firn to merge the two high schools in Milford."

Currently the Milford School system needs $100,000,000.00 in repairs and upgrades, compared to the city abandoning its costliest middle schools in favor of the larger High Schools. Many feel that building a new unified "Green" High School is the answer. The cost of merging the two schools is apx. $60,000,000.00 to the city of Milford. This cost will also accompany an estimated $40,000,000.00 from the state of Connecticut when those funds become available.

The new High School is being looked at with the Burnt Plains lot in mind as the city recently purchased that land. The site is in the vicinity of the YMCA and Platt Tech in Milford.

While this years budget battle is void of any meaningful solutions or good outcomes, the loss of money due to the cruelty of inflation a bad economy and a stagnant grand list is taking its toll on the city.

The emerging consensus is that wisest move is to take a "Long Term" view and begin the difficult process of streamlining education costs on the infrastructure side. The savings potential from a well designed school system will eventually result in higher property values, hence faster growth in the "Grand List", reduced maintenance and energy costs, and a consolidation of redundant services and staff positions.

Mark Stapleton the Chairman of the Board of Education agrees that the idea of "merging the two High Schools is a wise one" and looks forward to beginning the difficult process of studying the reorganizational benefits of the Milford school system.

Video of myself speaking at the podium during the public budget hearing

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