Meriden officials may give crossing guards the ax - KCTV5

Meriden officials may give crossing guards the ax

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MERIDEN, CT (WFSB) -

In Meriden, school crossing guards could soon become a casualty as the city looks to balance its budget; but some feel the proposal is putting dollars ahead of student safety.

Whether because of their bright coats and stop signs in their hands, it's pretty difficult to miss Meriden's crossing guards.

But Meriden mom Nicola Barnaby said she'll do just that if the city goes ahead with a plan to eliminate just under 30 percent of its staff.

"I'm hoping they'll reconsider because they're needed," she said. "As a mom it concerns me."

Victor Delfavero, who has ben a crossing guard for 10 years, said his post on Parker Avenue near the Stop & Shop would be cut. He said he was told that his spot, one of five near the Israel Putnam Elementary School, doesn't get a whole lot of foot traffic.

"You've got to give the kids as much protection as you can," he said.

According to the crossing guards and their union, if the cuts go through, they would lose nine of their 32 positions with the city saving around $90,000 a year.

"I think it's unfortunate," Barnaby said. "They're wonderful people and they serve a purpose. The children are safer when they're crossing them, and as a mom, you feel safer."

In his budget address, Meriden's city manager said this was his most challenging budget yet, noting how Meriden is getting less money from the state.

That's another reason why Meriden is looking at a slightly higher tax increase along with cutting spending by nearly $1.7 million.

In addition to crossing guards, other options include closing a fire house, which would save nearly $1 million.

As for his job, Delfavero said it's tough to know this school year could be his last.

"It helps me make ends meet, so naturally, I would miss the job, but on the other hand you can understand. Times are tough and the city has to save money. I don't know what the answer is. Let them think it over, reconsider and maybe we'll have some luck," Delfavero said.

City counselors are looking over the numbers and are scheduled to adopt a budget sometime next month.

According to statistics provided by some Meriden parents, 4,280 pedestrians died in traffic crashes in 2010,  which is an increase of 4 percent from 2009.

Parents are expected to hold a press conference to oppose the budget cuts and support the crossing guards.

"Meriden crossing guards are on the front lines every shool day to ensure our kids travel to and from school safely," according to a release from a parents group.

The press conference will be at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School at 8:15 a.m.

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