Separate Warrant For $100,000
By a 3-2 vote, the Norwich School Board decided on January 25 to send to Town Meeting the budget as proposed, with a separate warrant to add $100,000 to the Marion Cross School budget. If the budget without the warrant is passed, the homestead tax rate is estimated to increase by about 9 cents to $1.9024, the largest increase any School Board member can recall. If the the warrant is approved by voters, the homestead tax rate will additionally increase by nearly 2 cents.
School Board members Mackall (left) and Odell at meeting on January 25. Source: CATV screen shot
The extra $100,000 is presently intended to add another teacher for fifth grade to reduce class size from 23 to 15. However, the warrant can not bind the school to spend the money in that fashion. A majority of the Board expressed confidence that the MCS staff had the experience and resources to avoid deleterious effects of a larger class size but thought the voters should decide.
The two votes against the proposal were cast by Kelley Hersey and Jim Mackall. Both preferred to have the $100,000 folded into the overall budget. Despite his vote, School Board member Mackall did not mince words describing the attitude of some parents who lobbied for the added teacher, saying their approach was "condescending, disrespectful and arrogant" according to the CATV video. Those parents will need to persuade voters to vote for the budget andwarrant.
Voting in the majority, Lauren Morando Rhim said community members tell her to get the school budget under control. She thinks that the current state education funding crisis will be worse next year. School Board member Neil Odell observed that although Norwich is a wealthy community, "nearly half" of the Town's households qualify under income sensitivity guidelines. For that group, paying increasing school taxes is not easy.