FAIRFIELD — By a 3-2 vote, the Town Council voted to limit the amount of money it will give this year to a local school music program from a fund created for that purpose.
Because of the vote, no more than $20,000 can be spent from the Crawford Perpetual Music Fund to support the musical band programs at Lawrence High School in 2013.
Steve Grenier, chairman of the School Administrative District 49 board, which includes the high school, said that the amount is not enough to support a music program that he said has dwindled in recent years.
Grenier said more funding is needed to fund student music scholarships and instrument purchases.
“I’m asking you for human compassion here,” Grenier said. “Some kids are not going to be able to partake in this program if you don’t fund it close to what it was before. $20,000? I don’t think it’s enough.”
In recent years, the council, which also serves as the fund’s trustee, has given about $35,000 from the fund.
Grenier said that when the Crawford fund was established between 20 and 30 years ago, it consisted of $230,000 and has managed to grow despite the appropriations.
But council members said the reduced funding level is needed to keep the fund, which has $952,000 in it, strong.
Councilor Harold Murray said that while the fund has grown, that growth has not kept pace with inflation. He said the fund amount has decreased over the past few years from a high of near $1 million.
Town Manager Josh Reny said that in order for the fund to have the same purchasing power it had when it was begun, it would need $1.5 million.
“The purchasing power of the fund as a whole is slowly being eroded over time. It’s meant to last 100 years from now, 500 years from now,” Reny said. “Can we continue? Is this sustainable? That’s a valid question.”
Reny also said some of the funding goes to stipends for instructors at the program. He said that the total amount of money the program spends on scholarships and instruments is less than $20,000 per year.
Council members Murray, Robert Sezak, and John Picchiotti voted in favor of the $20,000 cap on spending.
Michael Taylor and Board Chairwoman Tracey Stevens voted against setting the cap.
Taylor and Stevens indicated that they would rather not vote on a maximum amount until they had seen a budget outlining exactly how the money would be spent.
While the council set the maximum appropriation amount at $20,000, the money has not been appropriated yet. School staff members associated with the music program traditionally make a presentation to the council later in the year to request funding in the context of a budget proposal.