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Fire Marshal Stops Public Hearing

UPDATE: Meeting is rescheduled for Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m., in the Montville High School auditorium.

The council chamber was filled to overflowing when the public hearing on the proposed schools budget began.

Every seat was filled, about 70 people were standing in the council chamber, and more were spilling out into the hallway, 10 minutes or so later, when Fire Marshal Ray Occhialini arrived and called a halt to the meeting.

The room was overcrowded, Occhialini said. Beyond capacity. A fire danger. Everyone who was standing would have to leave - and wait outside the building. The hall outside the council chamber would not be enough.

Superintendent Pamela Aubin stopped her Powerpoint presentation about the school system and its goals and achievements. The council gathered together at one end of the dais. The lights came on. Conversation began.

School board members in the audience got up to leave. Aubin asked any school staff members to vacate their seats.

But in the end, there were just too many people passionate about the schools, and Town Council Chairwoman Candy Buebendorf announced that the meeting would be rescheduled for next Tuesday, a week from today, at 7 p.m. in the Montville High School auditorium.

The general tone of the audience was approval. The citizens had come to speak their minds, Occhialini had showed up to do his job, and rescheduling was the best option.

Aubin’s proposed 2012-2013 budget is $37,627,497. That's $994,762, or 2.72 percent, higher than the current year’s budget. To read the details about the superintendent's proposed budget, click here.

Mayor Ron McDaniel, in his proposed budget for 2012-2013, set the school department at a zero percent increase from the current year.

Holly and Vincent Steinke don't have a child in the Montville school system right now, but two of their daughters went through the system when they were younger.

Vincent coaches soccer in town now, and Holly works as a speech/language pathologist in Oakdale Elementary.

"I love our community," she said, after the meeting, and she and Vince had come out to support the school system and the proposed budget, even with the increase.

"These kids try hard," Vincent says. "They deserve decent teaching."

Jeff Cregeur, 15; Marisa Florio, 16; and Kristen Lemieux, 15, came to the meeting to show support for the music department at Montville High School. They said that many other kids from choir came in support, as well.

They've heard rumors that the music department could be cut, they said, and "we're all a huge part of it," Lemieux said. They're planning on coming to the meeting next Tuesday, and wearing orange and black in support of the proposed school budget.

Music is "a way to express ourselves," Cregeur said. "It's one of the real reasons we come to school every day."

"It's one of the things we look forward to," said Florio.

The public hearing on the general government portion of the proposed budget is tonight at 7 p.m. in the town council chamber.

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Kelly C. April 17, 2012 at 11:34 AM
What a mess. Our mayor and council chair were not smart enough to know the room was not safe with that many people? Wow
Kelly C. April 17, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Nothing changes in montville. Same old scare tactics so board of Ed gets what they want. Last time I checked the superintendent only makes recommendations on layoffs. It's the board of Ed's job to find cuts and that should not include layoffs
Dana McFee April 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Wow!!! what a turnout, the largest Ive ever seen. If that many townspeople would show up for the regular council meetings things would be alot different here in town.
Howard April 17, 2012 at 01:03 PM
As I expected, last night’s hearing was overwhelmed with people. It is that way every year at the Board of Education (BOE) budget hearings. The annual budget hearings, particularly the BOE hearings, should be limited to the taxpayers of the town and the media. The people who supply the money should be the only people attending and testifying at these hearings.
Lynda J. Jean April 17, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I so agree with you Dana....
Jeff Smith April 17, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Have to be other ways to save besides the music dept Maybe some high end administrators? We can no way afford an 8% tax hike
J. Lincoln April 17, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I have seen this in the past. One thing you can count on is the word getting out that the BOE budget could be cut. The teachers alone can generate numbers because they don't want to see layoffs. Parents do not want to see cuts in programs and the average John Doe doesn't want tax increases. In my opinion, Mayor (I have a degree in municipal financing) McDaniel has done a very poor job with the budget. I speak as someone that has gone over his suggestions line by line. There is room for compromise and movement on both sides and I see this as tug of war instead of serious effort. All the talk about some of the shortfalls in revenue are totally true and I expect more professional tactics.
J. Lincoln April 17, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Minor correction to my last blog. The last sentence should read "shortfalls in revenue are not totally true"
Dave Bottigliere April 18, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Whether you support or oppose the minor adjustments, the big picture is that the education budget and high tax rate it requires makes the town noncompetitive in real estate and other commercial areas. The current high tax rates make us a less desireable destination than neighboring towns, and further increases even make this worse. This combined with the other lack of services and no real calling card such as bordering on Long Island Sound, sizeable parks, etc. make Montville a tough sell to real estate buyers when they are faced with taxes that are higher than surrounding towns with more to offer. Our per capita income and current unemployment rate also do not support any tax increases but more show the need for decreases. Montville has supposedly prided itself on their education system but it does not appear that the rest of CT is targeting Montville as its next must live town as witnessed by the lack of real estate movement even compared to surrounding towns during this down economy. With the condition of the economy and the present make up of the town, it does not seem prudent to continue spending in any avenue, unfortunately education is the biggest user and the only place to trim the budget that will actually be significant enough to accomplish this. Montville needs to face this grim reality, however unpleasant and act responsibly which invariably means to bring all costs under control and ease the burden to the tax payer, not increase it.
Gary April 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Jeff, who said any music teachers were loosing their job? Rumors are not facts but I agree there is no way anyone can afford to pay more taxes.

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