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The Referendum Vote: Opportunities And Obligations

To the Editor:

On Saturday, October 5, Newtown voters have an opportunity to cast their ballot in the question of whether we should accept the state’s grant  for the purpose of building a new Sandy Hook School. I strongly encourage voters to act in favor and cast a Yes vote.

We have a contract with Monroe to use the Chalk Hill building through June 2016 for educating our displaced students. Our obligation to these students, to their families, and to the faculty and staff is to return them to our community.  How then to be sure that we can meet that obligation?  Betting on enrollment decline that may or may not happen over two years risks putting us in a position to have no options for these students but to be divided up among other schools in some fashion and thus redistributing all the K-4 population. I believe this is a risk not worth taking.

Delivering an effective and productive K-12 educational program requires pre-planning and clear understandings about facilities, staffing, and resources. It is not, in my mind, an arena for throwing caution to the wind.

We also have an obligation to all voters and taxpayers to be wise in the use of resources, to seek ways to reduce costs, to plan for future needs in a way that allows for options and choices. I believe that building a new Sandy Hook School helps to address that taxpayer obligation, too.

The building will be a town asset of substantial worth – in terms of dollars and space.  If we are fortunate enough in years ahead to be able to repurpose a school building to meet other municipal needs, such as a senior center or a police station, we will have that option only if we add this building back to our inventory.

Finally, the state legislature and the governor’s office have made this grant offer fully-funded with no local tax impact and no repayment requirement. I think we should not squander this opportunity to be made whole and to be able to move toward the future with confidence in our ability to meet our obligation to the students and to each other.

Patricia Llodra

First Selectman

3 Primrose Street, Newtown                        September 25, 2013

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