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2012-13 Budget Passes Easily on 1st Vote

$56.8 million budget sails through by 228-vote margin.

Brookfield voters that cast ballots in Tuesday’s budget referendum approved 1,665 to 1,437, a margin of 228 votes.

District I voters, who cast their ballots at (HHES), registered 519 votes in favor of the budget and 567 against, however voters in District II, (BHS), overwhelming approved the budget 1,111 to 849.

Absentee ballots also went in favor of the proposal, 35 to 21.

The 3,102 votes represent 30.7 percent of the town’s 10,119 registered voters, a relatively low turnout compared to recent years.

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The next step will be for the Board of Finance (BOF) to officially set the mill rate, , up from a post-revaluation adjusted mill rate of 24.06. The board has a special meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday night in room 209 of Town Hall.

Lucia May 16, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Brian, our nation has spent nearly one trillion dollars on No Child Left Behind over the past decade and the data is in. A decade later we have study after study indicating little or no effect. The bonuses themselves have led to major cheating scandals across the nation. When we reduce our children to test scores everyone loses. I wonder what NCLB’s impact would have been if we used that trillion dollars to target only hiring tutors for children who were struggling with reading, writing, and math? We could have hired one million tutors, we could have hired have hired teachers, and reduced class size. We could have exchanged a free university education for any college student who volunteered 20 hours a week to tutor our children. Imagine a generation of college students without student loans? Now imagine if the United States Department of Education paid attention to their own data? That data indicates NCLB is a failure. According to the Secretary of Education 85% of our schools will be failing schools by 2014. Only in Washington DC could this mean don’t change anything. In my humble opinion it is time for a change in policy and leadership not only in Brookfield, but for all students across the nation. We are 21st because of the CMT scores, which are not a true representation of what is going on in our school system and it is truly naïve to think it is.
OvertaxedOne May 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
One of the benefits of living in a town like Brookfield for over 25 years is that the citizens get to vote on the budget each year. I strongly disagree with combing the budget into one vote this year. In the past, it gave us a chance to express a view on the two parts of the budget, the town/municipal portion and the educational portion. Through the years, I have always felt the municipal budget was run fairly efficiently and tight. A good group of dedicated public servants, who when asked, were always responsive to me and anything I required. Then of course we have the education budget. How many years have we ever heard that the teachers or the education budget had enough money? How many times was sacrificed volunteered? How many times did we ever hear about the class size and the fact that we had to get to the sacred and holy number? Parents always complained. Teachers always complained. The Board of Education always submitted a big numbers only to have it slashed. Year after year the game was played. So for next year, let’s go back to a split vote. It’s the only way to keep the budgets in check. The unions in check. The politicians in check. When the people vote on the budget, the spending stays under control.
David Propper May 16, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I find it interesting that when you consider an operation well run, then the elected officials are "dedicated public servants". However, when you do not believe the operation is well run, they are "politicians". Since there have been individuals that have moved from the BOE to the BOF (from both parties), I would be interested to read what you believe happens to transform these "politicians" into "dedicated public servants"? Is there a special indotrination course that we give to the BOF members that we fail to provide to the BOE members?
InterestedBrookfieldResident May 16, 2012 at 05:19 PM
OvertaxedOne, Did you attend the BOE and BOF budget meetings to offer your ideas and comments? I hope you did. I watched them on Channel 17 and they were PAINSTAKINGLY thorough. I applaud the member's patience and time spent on this process. I certainly do not envy this VOLUNTARY job, and admire their willingness to do it. It is important to respect those who are serving the town in which we reside-whether we agree or disagree with them. They are educated residents who are serving in the best interest of our town -regardless of their background or party affiliation.
Jerry Friedrich May 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Lucia, Here is your chance. Help me understand your position. You say "raising taxes in a recession is wrong".I don't know where you live but chances are pretty good that you are part of the 65% or so of the homeowners who will see no increase or even a decrease in their taxes on their home this year. You say,"the school system is broken". Can you give me some understanding of what specifically is broken and how we should fix it ? You say, :the finance board should have made cuts". I am the Chair of the Finance Board, where should we have made those cuts? I started this discussion ( see above) with the honest attempt to understand positions such as your state. Where are we going wrong ? Please, if you feel uncomfortable giving details in this forum, please contact me directly via my e-mail at friedrich5@aol.com.
OvertaxedOne May 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM
David: I should have made my comments more precise. I applaud the town hall personnel including the police. These are the regular town employees who serve us year after year. I am skeptical of all elected politicians.
OvertaxedOne May 16, 2012 at 06:17 PM
A careful read of my comments was not a criticism of this year’s budget per se or of any of the town’s volunteers. I admire those who volunteer their time for the betterment of our community. My criticism was targeted at the fact that the budget was combined into one vote. This did not allow the citizens the ability to comment on each portion of the budget. Historically, the education budget is the largest and most significant expenditure of the town and historically has asked for and has received the largest increase of the budget. (Consequently causing the increase in the mill rate and the increase in the property taxes. ) So no matter how you slice it and dice it, the root cause of the tax increase should be evident to the tax payers of the town and they should decide if they want to vote this increase in the light of day. I seem to recall as many as 2 or 3 votes in some years in order to get budgets passed in previous years. THAT keeps all sides in check.
JLM May 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Lucia, Part 1 I did pay attention. You bring up the NCLB act and how study after study, the results are in and the findings are not so great. The theory behind the NCLB is in essence a good one, but the execution of the program across the US is where the problem lies, the program only begun in 2002 & only officially went into effect for 5 yrs. My point is that towns like Brookfield can’t improve their education system without having a good working budget. Programs enacted like the NCLB Act are fairly new and U.S. towns are just getting used to fine tunings of it.
JLM May 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Part 2: As I mentioned before, my child receives Special Education Services & while I am a proactive parent in my child’s education who works full-time, I also realize that education programs like the NCLB that are enacted are by no means what makes my child a success in school, in fact I have my child tutored over the summer, which I pay for out of pocket. I do so not because I think Brookfield is not doing enough, but because I think my child’s is at an age where the foundation of learning is critical. I could afford to send my child to a private school, but I choose not to b/c I want them to have the experience of a public school. You mention Brookfield schools are terrible; one of the key points of private education is individual attention, again this is why it is important to pass a budget b/c if it is not passed then there could be teacher cuts thus resulting in larger class size which happens on the public level.
JLM May 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Part 3: As a long-time Brookfield resident myself, I want to have faith in my school system and after seeing how my son has shown improvement through the Brookfield school system, I want to give Brookfield a pat on the back. Again, I know the budget was passed and am happy that it was, but I think the residents of Brookfield need to comprehend the value of a positive vote for the budget. No schools public or private are without flaws, but the steps we can do like supporting the budget rather than complaining about a little tax increase if tha,t is the direction we should go, we are never going to get to a “better” school if residents like you vote “No!”
Jerry Friedrich May 16, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Overtaxed Brookfield Resident, Part 2 Now, regarding the schools, according to the budget information i have, the change in FTE over the same period was down 10%. Now having said that I am including all employees some of which are not teachers. The environment in the schools have changed with shifts in populations from grade to grade new programs and other state requirements. The BOE has implemented several new programs to enhance students education like the lower level language program, full time kindergarten, the IPad program which I feel is a major plus for the district, and requests for changes in teaching staffing levels at the elementary levels. Making a year to year comparison with a moving target is difficult especially with the changing curriculum and other state requirements.I don't want to insinuate we are perfect, but we are making some very good positive progress. Now regarding the police / public works, I can only give you my opinion . I don't see the town growing ( in population) more than 5% over the next 10 years. For one, there is not much "available land for development" in town and the economics issues in the economy ( slow recovery, high energy cost etc.) has caused an increased lag in the general population trends that would usually benefit Brookfield. Thus, unless we have some unexpected requirements, I do not see any additional growth needed in either department.
Jerry Friedrich May 16, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Overtaxed Brookfield Resident, Part 1 I do not want try to interrupt some of the complex issues around pension because it also depends on the situation each employee finds themselves. So, please refer to the below link which gives some additional details. I may be incorrect but I think this is the most current information. http://www.ct.gov/trb/taxonomy/v4_taxonomy.asp?DLN=41384&trbNav=|41384| I'll work on Town Information.
Paul May 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Lucia, It's obvious you didn't read the article. The rankings are not based on CMT scores as other states do not take Connecticut Mastery Tests. Also, why would you blame the Brookfield School Budget on a law created by George Bush? Last time I checked, he was not a Brookfield resident. I also assume from your comment "I guess those who voted like paying higher taxes for fewer benefits." means you did not vote. If that is the case, perhaps you should have taken the time to do that. It would have been a wise decision since you've taken the time to complain.
Brookfield Resident May 16, 2012 at 07:49 PM
JLM - you continue to associate higher educational quality with more money, which is a false premise. Just because one votes against the budget does not mean one is anti-education.
Brookfield Resident May 16, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Jerry - thanks for your reasonable (and patient) responses. I am glad to see the education personnel as a whole has gone down commensurate with enrollment. I certainly understand there is a certain amount of fixed cost that will not go away, but there should be some variable cost with this lower enrollment. So let me ask - has the education cost gone down at all, despite these cuts, and despite the 9% drop in enrollment? In the private sector we have to delivery productivity every day, or we go out of business. Is the same happening in the schools? Regarding the police and public works, I understand that we don't project growth, but how do we benchmark what we currently have to see if its right? Maybe it is just right, or even on the very efficient side, but having some data to prove this would be helpful. I know the dialogue here may get heated, but this has been a very good discussion, and while I could take it private with you, I think having it out in the open helps those of us that have trouble making it to the various town meetings understand things a little better.
JLM May 16, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Overtaxed – I am not necessarily saying we need to tax more to have a higher educational quality; just simply you can’t have your cake and eat it. People want their children to have a great education and schools are what can be a deciding factor on where a new family may choose to lay down their roots. I was responding to Lucia’s post where this poster’s child goes to a private school because our schools are terrible. I have attended budget meetings & in the past when the education budget has not passed the first time, education cuts have had to be made and my association was that it is IMPORTANT to pass a decent budget, so the children can receive a higher educational quality they deserve.
Diogenes May 17, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Once again the liberal elitist snobs pull the wool over everyone's eyes and garner enough support to continue the promotion of the socialist evil of public education. Being against tax hikes is not enough. To battle socialism we must burn our Social Security Checks and our Medicare cards.
Wendy May 17, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Wow, I've been scrolling through the comments and am immensely heartened by the rigorous, respectful tone of the discussion. This is great, and we need more of this to have intelligent discourse about community issues. Almost all comments have been substantive, issue-focused and honest (as in, open inquiry, not angled or insinuating, except for the post immediately prior to this one). I write this comment without agenda. Thank you to the Patch and to each of you who sat and thoughtfully composed your comments. Jerry, special props to you for your sustained focus on specific ways to reduce the budget. It's a tall order, isn't it?
Aaron Boyd (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 04:21 AM
As editor, I'd like to second Wendy's comment. We've had a number of conscientious, constructive comment threads of late and it's a testament to the quality of the community. Thank you all for the great discourse; I hope it continues.
Jerry Friedrich May 17, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Overtaxed Brookfield Resident, I'll first address the school portion and then separately the Town departments. I fully understand your comments regarding productivity issues in the corporate arena. I experienced the same issues during most of my employment, or at least with the more successful companies. In the school area the comparisons are much tougher since 80% of the school budget is comprised of salaries and benefits.This number is usually much smaller in corporate America. That leaves all other expenses into the rest of the 20%. When the cost of things like energy to heat the schools (another large expense) increase as we all have seen this year, things get squeezed. Additionally, the second largest expense besides salaries is health insurance. This coming year alone the costs are up 12%. Thus, any productivity savings may have a minimal effect.Add some new requirements from the state and changes needed each year as well as contractual issues, which are mostly people driven to comply, reduction in education costs are rare and far between. I believe the fact that the school has been able to institute the several programs (as explained elsewhere in this thread) while reducing staff consummate with student declines alone is an accomplishment.
Brian May 17, 2012 at 03:50 PM
OvertaxedOne, I have to completely disagree with you on your last comment about keeping budgets in check by forcing 2 or 3 votes. That just perpetuates the problem where the initial budget proposed would include fat to be cut during the 2nd & 3rd round of votes. I applaud the BOF and BOE for putting forth a budget that had already been thoroughly reviewed, challenged and trimmed to only what is specifically needed. The single vote has nothing to do with the ability to have all citizens comment on each portion of the budget. That opportunity is available to all at the MANY budget review meetings and thru the Patch with the articles after each of these meetings. These meetings are the RIGHT time to comment and get involved with the budget. On voting day, if everything was done correctly up front with full disclosure and listening to the voices of the citizens of Brookfield..the budget should pass on the first vote.
BobCat May 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Kudos to Jerry Friedrich for keeping the debate fair, transparent and civil. I watched many of the budget meetings on TV. Many times he calmed and focused debates that could have gone in several directions. I've voted no on some budgets in the past. This time around, I felt comfortable that I was getting the straight story and that the story made sense. Nice work, Jerry.
Jerry Friedrich May 17, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Thank you Gary, I appreciate your comments.
Lucia May 17, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Paul, your comment is very vague and clearly underscores your misunderstanding of CT school rankings, sHere is a link so that you may educate yourself about rankings: http://www.psk12.com/rating/USindexphp/STATE_CT.html
Lucia May 17, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Paul, your comment is very vague and clearly underscores your misunderstanding of CT school rankings. Here is a link so that you may educate yourself about rankings: http://www.psk12.com/rating/USindexphp/STATE_CT.html
Brian May 17, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Lucia, I believe Paul was referring to my post about the Brookfield HS being ranked 21st in the state and 817th in the Nation. That is a US News and World Report 2012 ranking which takes into consideration not only how students scored in their State aptitude tests (CMTs for CT high schools) but also thier overall College Readiness based largely on the % of students taking AP exams and % who passed the AP exams. Looking at this ranking we can see where Brookfield ranks with our AP classes which always seem to be one of the 1st areas considered for budget cuts. This shows how important those AP courses are and how we currently fair lower in the % of students taking these courses. Most of the schools ranked above BHS have 50-60% of the students taking the AP Exams with passing rate in the 40-50% range. BHS came in with 42% of the students taking the AP exam and 34% Passing. This is good but certainly could be improved. We need to ensure the school budget can continue to fund these AP Courses. On the whole NCLB and the resulting CMTs and teaching to the test, I would agree with you that it's not ideal but it's want Brookfield and all other school have to follow. Unfortunately there is not much we can change at the local district level around the CMTs and NCLB act. More of our funding discussion should be around more AP classes at the high school, is full day kindergarten needed, do we need more or less paraprofessionals for individual attention in CES & HHES?
Jerry Friedrich May 18, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Overtaxed Brookfield Resident, Ok, as promised here is the Town side. First pensions for town employees are calculated by a formula depending on each union contract. The formula is a standard corporate style calculation using number of years of service, age, and salary with a minimum 10 year vesting period in determination. The police are an exception as theirs is a little different at this time but currently they are in arbitritation with the town. Medical costs are also included in those discussion and when employees reach 65, medicare becomes the primary vendor.Similar structure occur with other town employees. Benefits are a complicated issues since the various union contracts have different benefits. In recent years there has been an effort to get employees aligned to minimize errors and costs savings. As I mentioned, we are not perfect but, in the past 5 years both the BOE and Town have been working together to provide both a fair package to the employees while attempting to control costs. Now regarding metrics for headcount issues. This is also complicated. For instance with the police, we staff crews 24 hours per day and the state has various rules regarding training, updates etc which need to be accommodated while maintaining safety needs within town. Dispatches for instances handle all town needs including fire and EMS calls as a cost savings. Overtime is analyzed, also retirements etc since 6 months of training may be needed.
Douglas September 06, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Are you kidding me? You should be ashamed to be associated to anything involved with this budget.You are spending money that you don't have and in a time where everyone is in trouble, You try to justify this spending by saying you are improving the town???People are out of work, energy costs are through the roof, companies are closing their doors and instead of making the hard choices of cutting back, you elect to further punish the residents and try to bleed them dry and actually increase the budget.. Maybe if the taxes weren't as high people could actually reinvest in goods and services provided by local businesses. I'll give an example. The property assessment on my home decreased by 10% and yet my taxes went UP over 11% !. How can you sit there and justify a 21% swing like this??????? I own a car with over 160,000 miles on it and needs to be replaced soon. How can I buy a new car from any local dealers when I have to pay these type of numbers in taxes? And then if I did get a new car( which now I can't afford) , I'd have to pay more taxes on that as well. Do you see how insane this is? I'll tell you one thing, I will be going to every borad meeting from now on and I will be voicing my opinion. I have no problem paying my fair share of taxes, but the key word is fair. I have owned my home for over 20 years and i have seen my taxes go up EVERY year and I have never said a word. But now these numbers are getting obscene. D.U.
Rob Gianazza September 06, 2012 at 06:19 PM
@Douglas - Please do get involved. That's how change occurs. Not by electing a community organizer, but by individual citizens stepping up and representing their neighbors. It doesn't have to be a career, just a term or two. Then let the next individual do their part. Oh, and while you're in office, share what you learn. There's a lot of people out there that are well intentioned but don't understand the constraints of the system. Union negotiations, unfunded mandates from the state, and other regulations that must be adhered to are just a few.
Naomi Moscatelli May 22, 2013 at 11:05 AM
So the number of voters who think the budget is too high outweigh the voters who think it is too low, and once again, District I votes nay and District II votes aye. This speaks volumes about the division of the town by economics.

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