School board approves 4.23% budget increase

After listening to 19 speakers at two public hearings and receiving three different proposals from Superintendent Karen Baldwin, the Board of Education voted to approve a 4.23% budget increase for the 2018-19 school year at its meeting Monday night.

The vote was 7-1 in favor of the $96.6 million budget request — a $3.92 million increase from the 2017-18 school budget — with Carina Borgia-Drake casting the lone dissenting vote. Board member Tracey O'Connor was absent from Monday's meeting and did not vote.

“I fully support 4.23% which is going to provide the best education for students at this time," said board chairwoman Fran Walton after the meeting.

On Saturday morning, the board heard from 16 speakers — 13 of whom supported the amended budget that included elementary art teachers and high school English teacher positions that had been eliminated in Baldwin's initial budget proposal. Three spoke against the proposed budget at that meeting.

Two days later, only three members signed up to speak at the board's second public hearing. One of the three speakers Monday was Ridgefield High School senior Paul Kim, who spoke during an anti-gun violence press conference in Hartford Friday.

Walton ruled Kim out of order when he tried to bring it up a letter Baldwin sent to students and parents regarding school safety. 

The school board will meet with the Board of Selectmen during its three-day budget review that has been scheduled to take place between Tuesday, March 6, and Thursday, March 8. During that meeting board members are expected to voice their concerns with the selectmen's decision to decrease the district's capital budget request that includes school security items.