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Fairfield Schools Seek 4.9% Spending Hike

Mike Goughnour was just one of many satisfied parents Tuesday night. The Board of Education voted to approve Superintendent David Title's request for more than $189 million for the next school year, not making a single cut in his recommendations. Mike was confident that his two children now at Osborn Hill Elementary School would get a better education because of it.

In particular, Mike spoke highly of Title's hope to add more full-time teachers at elementary schools. The district plans to provide more full-time specialists for language arts and math, helping kids who may be struggling to read or to grasp math concepts. Osborn Hill, one of Fairfield's larger elementary schools, would also get extra staff to deal with the higher enrollment.

"We've been pushing for this for a while," Mike told the board. "I am a realist, though, so I know the budget's going to get tight."

Most of the parents who spoke before Tuesday's vote agreed that the district's spending plan had been handled well. Only one person at the meeting challenged the board's decision.

Former board member Bruce Monte disagreed with decision to move high school start times to 7:30 a.m. Bruce was on the board when it moved the start to 7:40 for Ludlowe and 7:50 for Warde. He felt the savings of $500,000 was not worth the loss of sleep. "More sleep is practically a magic bullet for all the things that plague our youth," Bruce said.

The district's spending could still be cut dramatically, however. The Board of Finance, the Board of Selectmen and the Representative Town Meeting must approve the plan as well, and their members have said they want to keep spending increases low.

Title asked for a spending increase of 4.9 percent above last year's amount. Over the last two years, the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting asked the school board to take a cut in 2009-10 and approving a 1.44 percent boost for this school year.

But Title defended his request for a bigger raise this year. Most of the changes are in "fixed costs," such as health benefit and pension fund increases and staff additions required by the agreement with the teachers' union. He also said he left millions off his department heads' initial wish lists.

"We took at least 3 percentage points out of it before it became public," Title said.

What do you think of the school district's spending plan? Should the school board have made cuts? Voice your opinion in the comments below.

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