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Monday, April 11, 2011

FROM WALLINGFORD - You need to be at those meetings

BY Jason Zandri


It’s that time of year again. Wallingford’s budget has been presented and was published as a legal notice in Wednesday’s Record Journal.

It was of little surprise that the education budget took the biggest hit, originally proposed at $91,573,029. Education spending is about 62 percent of the total operating budget even after the Mayor trimmed it down to $86,793,733. This is a cut of $4,779,296 from the Board of Education’s proposal. Of those cuts the Mayor outlined, the most heavily target ones were the certified salaries. That action cut the school board’s proposed $50,514,163 down to $47,302,695 which is a decrease of 6.4 percent or $3,211,468.

This 6.4 percent reduction doesn’t necessarily translate to layoffs as school administrators can find other ways to make up the difference. There is the possibility of retirements or the shifting of some smaller amounts of money from other small surpluses. Once the budget is passed the funds are sent to the Board to allocate to the outlined costs and some of the amounts can be shuffled around.

On April 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm in the Robert Earley Auditorium the Wallingford Town Council will hold a Public Hearing on the 2011-12 budget. People can attend and ask questions on the individual appropriations and requests.

I am sure we are going to see many parents and educators in attendance for these upcoming public hearings. April 11th is a Monday and historically the public hearings are not recorded or televised. If history repeats, one would need to be in attendance to hear the whole story and/or to provide any input.

You really need to be at many meetings before this event as all the monies that are directed and spent throughout the year have an effect as to how the budget is put together. Having said that, it is better to see people show up now rather than not at all.

The bottom line is, at this point it will make little difference.

I know of one elected official that received nearly 20 letters/emails from parents regarding the education budget over the past few weeks. This individual reviewed all the letters in detail and then took a look at the voter registration for the writers. Only two were registered voters. Knowing that only 37 percent of the registered voters show up for local elections, it is safe to assume that only one of the two made it to the polls in 2009.

Eighteen other people took the time to write a note but couldn’t be bothered to go and vote. I guarantee you that it takes longer to compose a message and mail it or email it than it does to vote in a local election.

The bottom line here is all the letters should be reviewed on their individual merits but we all know that never can happen. We also know that in most cases, self preservation of the elected official is their first priority. So are they going to cater to the younger people with families that do not come out and vote or to the “over 50” set that come out in spades every election?

Older people who are approaching retirement or who are already retired have already put their kids through the school system. They are dealing with smaller cost of living increases if they see any at all and the last thing they are going to be looking for is additional education spending that will increase their taxes.
It is commendable to write letters to your elected officials and to come once a year to a few budget meetings but if you’re not going to go out and vote and get involved with a political party and push an agenda you support then you need to understand you might as well be trying to blow out a light bulb.

Get informed, get involved and get out and vote.

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