"We will pay" and "Let the voters decide" were themes reverberating around the crowded cafeteria at Sarah Noble Intermediate School in New Milford during April 1's Board of Finance budget hearing (see Page S1 for the story and more photos).

As many as 400 people were on hand, ranging in age from pre-schoolers to veteran politicos, many to offer their feelings about the proposed $56.945 million Board of Education budget for 2010-11 designated March 11 by the Republican majority Town Council in a party-line 6-3 vote.

The council's decision to cut $1.8 million off the next fiscal year's education budget resulted in the school district-wide issuance by Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote and the Board of Education of non-renewal letters to 28 teachers -- adding to the nine who had previously received them last month.

Approximately 70 speakers voiced their budget concerns at the hearing, about a half-dozen supporting the council's budget proposal and the rest asking the Board of Finance to reinstate the $1.8 million -- and thus the teachers' jobs -- in the budget for voters to decide the matter in townwide referendum.

-- Norm Cummings