NEWINGTON - About 10 people spoke in support of funding youth sports and education at a public hearing on the town’s $125.6 million proposed budget.
The Town Council is still considering adjustments on the 2020-21 proposal, which includes increases of 2.11 percent to town spending and 2.67 percent to school spending.
Brian Wood, a longtime coach with the Soccer Club of Newington, asked the council to restate a $200,000 line item to the Parks and Recreation budget, to fund improvements at parks, playgrounds and athletic fields. One in particular disrepair is located at Immanuel Christian School, where Newington youth would typically play.
“This is the perfect time, when all programs are on hold and people are at home, to make improvements to the pools, parks and playgrounds in town,” added Phil Knowlton, another supporter of this initiative.
Newington’s 2019 Teacher of the Year Stacey Michaud urged the council to restore the Board of Education’s original funding request, representing a 3.46 percent spending increase.
“I feel even more passionate about this after witnessing and being a part of the distance learning efforts this year,” Michaud pointed out, adding that the online learning program wouldn’t have been possible without technology initiatives funded in recent years’ budgets.
“It’s more than obvious that education is very valued in Newington,” Michaud said. “Passing the schools’ proposed budget ensures that we can continue to meet the needs of our students.”
The Connecticut Department of Education requires school districts to implement and fully-fund new initiatives each year, a challenge educators commonly refer to as ‘unfunded mandates.’
This year, those include two new preschool teachers and new curriculum at the high school to meet evolving graduation requirements.
Forrest Helvie, one of several educators who spoke during the hearing, told councilors they should consider costs schools could face next fall if pandemic restrictions continue.
“Thinking about our budget from a fiscally conservative perspective I would rather pay a little bit now than a lot later,” Helvie said.
Newington Mayor Beth DelBuono gave a presentation on the proposed spending plan at the start of the meeting, before opening up the telephone lines to members of the public. About 50 people attended virtually.
“We love that the public is paying attention to our budget process,” DelBuono said. “It’s great to see that.”
If no changes are made to the plan currently proposed, the new mill rate would drop slightly, from 39.45 to 39.14, or a .8 percent tax decrease.
A new budget and mill rate are expected to be adopted at a special meeting May 19.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.