Thursday, March 28, 2013

Off the Bench is Back at the Public Budget Meeting

Good seats still available.
Oh ye of little faith!  On occasion, we here at the Exit 55 home bureau get a touch swamped with other things to do.

Like life.  Work.  The son.  Relationship.  Radio.  You know, stuff.

But "Off the Bench," our collection of random thoughts, has returned.

Let us set the scene for you.  It's a chilly night in Wilton, CT.  Your author, intrepid (or insipid) reporter for the Wilton Bulletin, has been assigned to cover the public meeting for the Wilton Board of Education to present its 2014-14 budget.  He is greeted warmly by two members of the school district at Middlebrook School and escorted to the auditorium, where the program will take place.  He walks in, grabs a seat and opens his laptop.

That's where we can pick things up...

The 2013-2014 Wilton Public School Budget.

I walked into Middlebrook School auditorium around 7:25. It's a small crowd as I arrived – 25 people, tops. Thinking that A) I needed to get to a power outlet (always be prepared) and B) it might get crowded, I located myself in the farthest corner.


Like many school auditoriums, there are three sections here. The middle one has the most people in it. The one furthest over, where the most people came in, has a smattering.

My section? One. The loneliest number that you'll ever do (that's a song reference, youngins).

And we begin. 7:32. Two minutes late. I've seen worse.

No WiFi in here, of course. Not even Cablevision. Angry Birds? Continue to have my running commentary with the Playmakers? I don't know.

Ooh, one of the members of the Board of Ed just noticed me siting alone. Probably wants to know who the freak is.

Damn. Somebody just came into my section. I liked being a rogue. Damn you, my good man!

I should pay closer attention, no? I mean, I am, plus I'm recording this in my trusty recorder. And yes, I've checked the batteries, and confirmed that the audio is feeding into it. So I'm cool.

Board of Finance March 27/ public comments will be allowed. At town hall.

See?  I am paying attention.

This auditorium is nice. A big rounded roof, wood work on the ceiling and beams, with cinder block walls. There's a little control room with a deck on top for lighting. Makes me think of a press box. That, of course, makes me smile and wistful.

The Board of Ed is making their presentation now. Bruce Likly, the chairman, is speaking. I've dealt with him a few times already and I like him because he responds. We haven't actually met. So far, they've been good to work with. I wish more people would be like that. It's a small town, after all

These seats are comfortable but the rows aren't made for people over, say, 5-7. If you have legs (and know how to use them - another song reference), you're possibly a tad uncomfy. The seats are nice though. They're padded and when you're supposed to be here for approximately two and a half hours...

Wait, what was I saying? I just had a coughing fit and had to leave for a few minutes. Found a barely-working water fountain.

I'm not sure if you know this but Wilton used to be a dry town. Dry. No alcohol.

Hang on...note Likly is talking about full day kindergarten. Around 26:45 on the recorder.

I should give my recorder a name. Gotta think about that.

The cell service isn't great. Damn. That will impact chatting with the Playmakers.

8:03. First yawn of the proceedings. I probably should have had a cup of coffee (I drove right by a Dunkin Donuts on US 7 – which goes from Norwalk to the Canadian border, north of Burlington, VT).

8:04. Second yawn.

8:05. Feeling like I need to sneeze. I fought it off.

Ooh, Mr. Likly got a touch frisky just now, essentially saying that (paraphrasing) 'although people think “we” just kind of dump money, I think we spend it very wisely.' Well-played, sir.

8:11. Mr. Likly is done. Now it's the public's turn. Each person gets three minutes. Here we go...

The first speaker mentioned the Bulletin. Yay, us.

He addressed the public. He was supposed to address the board. Somebody complained. Wow. Alert Robert's Rules of Order!

I'm just a fly on the wall.

I'm hungry. But, well, I don't need to eat.

There is a smattering of applause for each speaker so far. I like using that word. Smattering.

It's sort of like “nibbling” or “nibble.” Which makes no sense to you.

A few speakers get no reaction.  Gulp.

Notice I am making an attempt to not criticize or even praise anyone here tonight? Yes. I'm keeping myself out of trouble.

And we've had our first speaker get told to “wrap it up.” It's like the orchestra has kicked in at the Oscars.

Someone just did a Price is Right reference as she came down the aisle. Thank you, kind lady.

It's now 8:57. People are still talking. Your lips move, but I can't hear what you're saying...

I hear them. I just wanted to quote Pink Floyd.  Again - a song reference.

The debate continues to rage on full day kindergarten.

I've heard some of these same speakers talk at the regular Board of Ed meeting. No judgement. Just saying.

Second speaker has been told to wrap it up. No opinion to be added. Just noting it.

“(Name redacted), you're way over.”

The debate has raged on both sides of this budget. Many like it, many don't.  For the most part, everyone has been civil.

They were about to adjourn – and had – until a last speaker came up.

And...we're done. 9:10. Peace out.

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