FAIRFIELD, Conn. – With a vote of 27 for and 22 against, the Fairfield Representative Town Meeting cut $500,000 from the Board of Education budget late Monday.
This cut brings the budget down to $285 million and the tax increase of 1.95 percent. But the cut brought forward a storm of back and forth across the aisle.
At the start of the Monday meeting, District 4 Republican Rep. Joe Palmer said the reduction brings the town’s tax increase below 2 percent for the first time in five years.
“While we attract families, it is also essential for us to maintain a healthy balance between those that have children in the schools and those who do not,” Palmer said. “It is critical to trim back the Board of Education budget as much as possible.”
For Democrats on the RTM, cutting any part of the budget, especially the education side, was wrong. Minority Leader Hal Schwartz said the budget presented to them was a "yeomen's task" and done through a bipartisan effort.
Those who supported the school budget cut said several times that the proposed tax increase was more than the rate of inflation. Constantly increasing the education budget isn’t fair to those with no children in the town's schools, they said.
But most of the more than 40 residents in a line that wrapped around the gym for public comment spoke against the education cuts.
Many of those who stood up to speak during the public session had attended the Fairfield PTA Council's rally held before the meeting, all echoing the sentiment to not protect the education budget.
Several people asked why the RTM wasn’t investing in the town's students. Others said that they would happily pay the $250 increase in taxes to keep the $500,000 in the school budget.
“Please be accountable for your vote,” said Jessica Gerber, the last public speaker before the RTM.
After the last speaker, the RTM members expressed their dislike of having to make the vote.
“I am considering this cut to the Board of Education. It does not make me happy,” said Pamela Iacono, Republican Representative for District 9. But she added, “There is going to come a day when we are going to have to fund education to the fullest.”
The RTM continued to meet past midnight to discuss the municipal budget.