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Darien Officials Praise the State of the Town

DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s leaders are confident in the state of the town’s finances and schools. Though special education may once again prove troublesome for the school system's budget, the town’s finances are in good order and its Triple A rating is intact.

At the annual State of the Town address Monday, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and the heads of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Finance and Board of Education presented the Representative Town Meeting with a look back on the year and the outlook for 2012.

Stevenson highlighted the new police station, the Weed Beach renovation, the return of the fireworks and the cleanup after the multiple storms as highlights of the year. The town’s credit rating, according to Moody’s, is still high.

But many people still need help, she said, especially at this time of the year. Last year, Social Services delivered more than 100 meals to the needy in town, and Stevenson said this year it may be double that number. She urged residents to help their neighbors this holiday season.

The town's schools remain strong, Board of Education Chairman Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross said. But the board is projecting a $250,000 budget deficit in the next fiscal year.

“One area of concern is special education , which is a major driver behind the current deficit,” she said. Special education was the main reason Darien schools were forced to request an additional $475,000 in funding from the town last year, although $96,000 was eventually returned.

A total of 60 more special education students were enrolled this year than were originally budgeted for, Hagerty-Ross told the RTM. However, the schools have restructured their special education programs to make them more efficient, which has helped handle the increase in students.

Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao said Darien’s finances remain strong, thanks to tight fiscal spending by local government. The town ended the last fiscal year with a $700,000 surplus, she said, because of the high rate of tax collections and the work to keep expenditures down.

How do you feel the state of the town has changed in the past year? Tell us in the comments below.

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