Angst on rise as Salem budget heads for referendum

Salem - Parents and school officials didn't appear any closer to a mutual understanding on the school budget by the end of Wednesday night's town meeting, but residents voted to send the $14.9 million spending plan to referendum unchanged.

Tempers occasionally flared when it came to the $10.5 million school budget, which didn't arrive at Town Hall until 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The Board of Education, which requested a $10.8 million budget, originally refused to approve cuts imposed by the Board of Finance, in what school board Chairman Stephen Buck called an act of "civil disobedience." The board approved a $10.5 million budget on Monday night and endured many questions about the cuts during Wednesday's meeting.

When officials grew frustrated with repeated questions about cuts explained at Monday's Board of Education meeting, First Selectman Kevin Lyden stepped in to remind them to be patient.

"I know you're all emotionally involved in this, but this is their money," he said, asking officials to refrain from getting defensive.

Parents reiterated their concerns that the school was spending too much on administration and shouldn't have removed middle school math textbooks from the budget. Member Mary Ann Pudimat reiterated the Board of Education's position that changing administration "willy-nilly as a knee-jerk reaction" would be bad leadership.

The referendum on the budget will take place Wednesday at Town Hall.

The Board of Finance plans to include a question on the ballot about whether voters feel the budget is too high or too low.

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