The atmosphere at the public hearing on the recommended 2013-14 town and school budget stood in contrast to those of the past few years when a stunted economy and substantial school requests brought stories of financial struggles and calls for deep cuts.
Instead, the public hearing saw two rarities – the possibility of tax decreases for some residents and not a single resident speaking against the budget.
A flood of Farmington High School students and parents who had moved to the district for the town’s nationally recognized school system went to the podium to thank the town manager and superintendent of schools and plead for no cuts to be made.
Farmington High School Student Council President John Mastroianni was first to speak.
“I remind you that the students are very supportive and some are here tonight to demonstrate their sincere care for the town,” he said. “Farmington students deserve this budget and will work hard to take advantage of the opportunities this budget will bring… Someday I hope I can come back to Farmington and hopefully my hometown will be just as incredible as it was when I grew up here.”]
Farmington Future Co-President Beth Kintner was next.
“The Board of Education budge comes in under target – both sides do – and at the same time the Board of Ed budget addresses so many areas of concern we’ve had for the past few years,” Kintner said. “It moves forward in technology, replaces lost teaching positions, continues progress on the common core curriculum, maintains infrastructure and reduces class size. With low increases on both sides of the budget, it seems appropriate the Town Council would consider approving both sides of the budget with no cuts.”
Vignesh Kumar, another FHS student, said that as he’s finishing his senior year, friends in college have told him thanking Farmington and he did, crediting the town with providing many opportunities to shape his development.
His brother, Akash Kumar, said that he was starting to think about applying to college, he was proud of the reputation Farmington has and that many colleges want to accept its students.
Stephen Kay said the Board of Education’s proposed 1.96 percent increase didn’t go nearly far enough in restoring damage done over the past few years but was, at least, a start.
“We moved here five years ago due to the school system then I watched cuts in staff, programs, increases in class size over the past three years and I got worried,” he said. “We’re still not at the level of other towns… but we are rebuilding and with three young children, I’m filled with hope.”
His father’s adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t apply here, he said, referring to school district statistics showing Farmington ranked among the lowest in spending among the state’s 169 towns.
“When I look at what we pay, relative to what we get for our money, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
Several speakers called the budget “fiscally responsible,” including Ralph Passaro, who grew up in Darien but said he moved his family to Farmington for the schools and and Julia Grieco, who also moved for the schools.
Erica Isner and Ziggy Schulting, both FHS students, mentioned the music and other enrichment programs
“ This morning I was relieved to see elementary school kids out at the bus stop with their violas and violins. The past few years’ budget has been nerveracking, especially for the music department.I hope for many years to come it will continue to stay strong.
Former state Rep. Demetrios Giannaros applauded Town Manager Kathy Eagen.
“I haven’t seen seen such a great day when you’re actually decreasing the tax rate for the average person and you’re actually increasing technology - this is a great start,” he said.
A budget workshop with the Town Council and Board of Education will begin tonight at 4 p.m. Workshops will continue later in the week.