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Darien Finance Head Concerned By School Spending

DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s Board of Finance wants the Board of Education get its spending under control, especially when it comes to special education . Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao said that she wants more openness and collaboration from the Board of Education.

“We’re obviously concerned that, in an era of flat enrollment, and with the pressure to come in with good teacher and administration contracts, we’re continuing to see rises as high as 5.6 percent,” Mao told the Board of Education this week.

Mao said that she understands that special education is a difficult field to navigate, and the state does not fund all of the excess costs of the program. But she still doesn’t know what changes the district is making to help keep spending under control.

“We still have no sense of what the board of ed is doing strategically to handle special education. We still feel that we’re on a collision course down the road. We don’t know whether it will be one year, two years or three years. We just don’t seem to be getting anywhere strategically.”

Mao added that it seems like Darien’s costs are rising higher than surrounding towns. Last year, the Board of Education was forced to ask for extra money from the town to erase the deficit caused by special education. Board of Education Chairman Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross said at the state of the town address last month that the same situation will probably occur again this year.

Hagerty-Ross assured Mao that the Board of Education is being very transparent. She added that the high costs of special education hide the fact that the board has made some changes that have saved money.

“We’re waiting with bated breath to see what the excess cost funding from the state is going to be,” Hagerty-Ross said. “We can’t scrub this budget enough.”

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