Milford residents turn out to back proposed $102M school budget

Milford City Hall

Milford City Hall

Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Education was the focus Monday as residents voiced support for the $102 million school budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

The Board of Aldermen hosted the public hearing on the Board of Finance’s recommended 2022-23 budget of roughly $242 million — a $20 million hike from the present fiscal year. The aldermen will hold their own budget workshops before holding a final vote.

If approved, the mill rate would be set at 27.18, a decrease of 0.47 mills from this year’s budget. But Mayor Ben Blake has stated his plan is the mill rate will be adjusted down even further — hopefully, he says, in the 26s — before the 2022-23 budget is finalized.

The school district requested $102 million for the 2022-23 school year budget, a 2.3 percent increase from the current $99.7 million budget — and those who spoke Monday asked that that number be untouched.

“Our community, our society, our country, our world says that we value children, but we really don’t,” said Sarah Bromley, an early childhood educator for 35 years. “The evidence of that is that we don’t always fully fund the programs that they need. We don’t always pay their teachers and caregivers a living wage.”

Roughly 71 percent of the school budget is allocated towards salaries, 6.4 percent for tuition, 6.1 percent for benefits, 5.6 percent for transportation, 4.3 percent for facilities, 2.46 percent for education supplies and equipment, 2.1 percent for contracted services, 0.92 percent for other support and 0.88 percent for other educational support.

Tessa Marquis, a former member of the economic development commission, said she also opposed any cuts to the proposed school budget for two main reasons.

“One, an educated child is a benefit to a well-run community,” she said, “And two, an educated child becomes a healthy educated adult, equipped to work, pay their bills, care for others and charitably contribute in many ways to our world.”

Michael Brown said he was also in support of the school budget, specifically because the budget is allowing the schools to add more school counselors to better assist students.

For the first time in the district’s history, each of the eight city elementary schools has a school counselor — paid for with COVID relief funds from the state. The primary work of the school counselors is to develop strong relationships within the learning communities with the students, families and staff.

Amy Fedigan, the district assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the schools had applied the COVID funding to bring the counselors to the schools quicker.

“For now, we’re going to apply some of that funding to pay for the counselor and then these positions will be moved over to the general funds budget over the next three years,” she said.