Back in 2004, when Dianne deVries established the nonprofit Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding (CCJEF), two Fairfield County community leaders were among the first to throw support behind the cause — then-Stamford mayor Dannel Malloy, and former Newtown First Selectman Herb Rosenthal. Today, Governor Dannel Malloy has reverted to an oppositional position, while Mr Rosenthal has remained active with the coalition as president and Newtown’s representative of the CCJEF Steering Committee. the coalition has a simple, three-point agenda: revamp the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula and related grants to reflect the real cost of adequately preparing all students for college or advanced training, the modern workforce, and productive citizenship; ensure that adequate and equitable school funding is distributed fairly for all students and their municipalities; and shift the lion’s share of funding for school operations away from local property taxes and onto the state.
After many, many hours of work by Legislative Council Ordinance Chair Ryan Knapp and his colleagues, several information forums on the proposal, and a sparsely attended public hearing, the full council unanimously approved an upgraded senior tax relief program May 7. One aspect of the new ordinance will take effect immediately, activating a component providing up to $800 in tax relief to several dozen qualifying applicants in a newly established income tier this year. The balance of the ordinance’s new tenants will go into effect beginning with the 2015 round of tax relief applications. During full council deliberation on the matter, Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary motioned the ordinance to include several nonsubstantive changes that moved the extended 2014 application deadline of June 15 to June 1, to accommodate the tax collector’s office. The proposal was also amended to incorporate language including medical expense deductions beginning with the 2015 application period. Councilman Robert Merola reminded his colleagues that Newtown’s senior tax program already is among the most generous in the state. First Selectman Pat Llodra asserted that only Redding’s tax relief program exceeds the generosity of Newtown’s at the current $1.65 million level.
Police are investigating a recent series of copper thefts from various locations in town in seeking to learn who has stolen the copper piping and wiring for its scrap value. Police Captain Joe Rios told Police Commission members on May 6 that detectives have been investigating and have identified some suspects in the thefts. Town police have been working with police from other law enforcement agencies in probing the thefts. Police hope to make arrests through warrants, according to Capt Rios. Thefts have been discovered at Cochran House in Fairfield Hills, as well as at least four other vacant properties in town.
The Board of Education discussed an upcoming contract negotiation with district nurses and its proposed non-lapsing fund account during its meeting on Tuesday, May 6.The school board also heard from a number of people during the meetings public participation segment, all regarding the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.Board Chair Debbie Leidlein informed her board negotiations for the nurses’ contract with the district are soon to be underway.Ms Leidlein said the union representatives for the nurses’ will contact the school board’s attorney, Floyd Dugas, when ready to begin negotiations. BOE member Michelle Ku and Ms Leidlein are set to represent the school board during the negotiations, and Ms Leidlein said she will update the school board with news about the negotiations once they begin. After BOE Secretary Kathy Hamilton asked if the school board could meet to discuss what its goals are for the negotiations before they begin, Ms Leidlein said, that would be appropriate.
The Newtown Public Schools Recovery Project has slated its next parent forums, to be held at Newtown High School, Middle Gate Elementary School, and Head O’ Meadow Elementary School. Each forum will be presented twice, once during the school day and again in the evening, to allow for maximum participation. Each program will run for one hour. The programs for May 13-14 will offer parents new ideas for communicating the teenagers, tips for giving children a positive and happy outlook, and ways to help children manage transitions.
With a gentle command and a little bit of peanut butter, Newtown’s off-leash dog park was officially opened on May 3. Cleo, Assistant Director of Recreation Rose Ann Reggiano’s dog, had the honor of “cutting” the ribbon to Park and Bark, Parks & Recreation’s newest park, after an opening ceremony was held late Saturday morning. Ms Reggiano admitted some peanut butter had been placed on the ribbon to help Cleo know where to chew. Once the ribbon fell, Ms Reggiano announced, “The park is open!” Guest speakers at the ceremony Saturday morning also included Parks & Recreation Director Amy Mangold, Selectman James Gaston Sr. Residents and their dogs can now visit the two-acre park located on Old Farm Road, adjacent to The Brian J. Silverlieb Animal Care and Control Center. The park is open daily, dawn to dusk.
An informational session to explain the construction aspects and cost implications of the planned expansion of the Hawleyville sanitary sewer system is scheduled for Thursday, May 8. The meeting, which is sponsored by the Water & Sewer Authority (WSA), is slated for 7 pm in the lower level conference room at Town Hall South, 3 Main Street. A regular meeting of the WSA will immediately follow. After lengthy discussion at a February town meeting, voters by an 81-to-11 margin approved borrowing $2.8 million to expand the Hawleyville sanitary sewer system as a means to spur local economic development. Expanding the Hawleyville sewer system is intended to make several large undeveloped properties there more attractive to the developers of commercial/industrial projects. Those properties are in the general vicinity of the intersection of Mt Pleasant Road and Hawleyville Road.
May is upon us and the Newtown VFW, Men’s and Ladies Auxiliaries have quite a few activities and events planned. At the most recent Post meeting, James Rebman, who was reelected to a third year as Newtown Post 308 commander, said, “Spring is when everything is renewed along with our commitment to fellow veterans and our country.”