Possible police officer addition to Middlesex School debated
DARIEN — The Board of Selectmen budget went down, the Board of Education’s went up.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman, along with Superintendent Dan Brenner, presented the town and schools budgets Tuesday to the Board of Finance.
With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., an item both Stevenson and Ochman discussed was the possible addition of a School Resource Officer to Middlesex Middle School and something that could potentially be included in the budget deliberations going forward.
“We have made some outreach to the Chief of Police (Ray Osborne) and as soon as we have more information we will bring it to the full board,” Ochman said. “Part of that is hearing from parents about the idea of an officer at school and that is something we would weigh in.”
Brenner confirmed he had spoken with Chief Osborne and that further talks would include the Middlesex School principal in the following weeks.
“We’re having ongoing conversations about school security which is an ever-changing problem. We’re very fortunate to have folks at the Darien Police Department who have studied this,” Brenner said.
Stevenson alluded to the challenges at the state level with the fiscal crisis and decrease in funding for transportation and education grants to the town. She added that no new programs were added and that service levels would remain unaffected in the town budget.
“Department heads were appropriately directed to plan with a zero percent budget increase in mind and we knew going in that it would be a difficult task,” Stevenson said.
The Selectmen’s budget for Fiscal Year 2019 came in at $45,689,237. This represents a 1.05 percent reduction from the current fiscal year.
Stevenson noted that the hiring of three civilian dispatchers was ultimately crossed out from the budget citing personnel costs. Board of Finance Chairman John Zagrodzky has constantly warned town officials about the long-term costs of new hires due to salaries and benefits.
The Board of Education budget for Fiscal Year 2019 amounted to $98,122,266 or a 2.34 percent increase over that of the current fiscal year. The education budget underwent cuts, pushing it down from an original 2.75 percent increase proposed back in early January.
“92 percent of our budget is set in either fixed costs or contractual obligations to personnel and students,” Ochman said. “Still within that context, we’ve been able to bring the operating budgets down.”
The Board of Finance will continue to review the two budgets before passing them off to the Representative Town Meeting which will issue a final approval around May.