The Boards of Finance, Selectmen and Education held the first of two public hearings on the 2011-2012 budget on Saturday, April 9, which proposes a 3.11 percent increase in spending and an increase to the mill rate of 0.57, bringing it to 20.04.
For a property at the town’s median assessed value — $308,470 — the new mill rate would bring the annual tax bill to $6,182, a $176 increase over the 2010-11 fiscal year.
The 2011-12 budget balances the proposed spending ($55,453,571) with $3,585,282 in revenues and fees (including $300,000 appropriated from the general fund) with $51,868,289 to be collected in taxes. With the Grand List at 19.47 (up 0.97 from a year ago), the new mill rate would increase revenue from taxes by $1,463,000
Along with the $55.5 million allocated in the proposed spending plan, the Board of Finance’s (BOF) budget also includes the creation of a Contingent Reserve Fund as a means of acknowledging an additional $637,429 in projected state revenues were Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget to pass as-is.
The potential revenues include an additional $213,743 in sales tax and $323,686 in real estate conveyance taxes, as well as $100,000 in development fees to the Land Use Department.
“Things are improving in retail economics — not job economics, but retail economics,” First Selectman Bill Davidson explained of the potential for increased Land Use fees. “There’s the BJ’s [Wholesale Club] application that is moving quickly and successfully through the process — they have the full expectation that they’ll break ground on that this year — and there are other things happening along Federal Road, so we’re pretty comfortable that $100,000 will be coming in.”
While the funds are not tied directly to any spending, the consensus among the boards is that the reserve fund would be used for capital expenses, building and equipment maintenance, and contributions to the pension plan and other post-employment benefits (OPEB), such as retired employee medical plans.
“We’re not going to rely on that income to support current spending,” BOF Chairman Bill Tinsley said, explaining the Contingent Reserve, which is not incorporated in the overall spending plan. “We don’t know if we’re going to get a penny of it. If we get a dollar of it, we’re going to put it away in a savings account and money is only going to go into that account on a dollar-for-dollar basis.”
There have been questions as to whether the BOF has the authority to determine how potential revenues should be handled, as the annual proposal is officially a spending plan, with a request to levy taxes from the public to meet those appropriations.
“We’re trying to do something a little different this year because we have an unknown potential source of revenue,” Tinsley said. “There are several methodologies, so that it could be done in a number of ways. This is just the way we’ve picked to do it thus far.”
“The objective that we all have,” he said of the three boards, “Was to make sure that it’s just transparent and understandable.”
The school district’s Director of Business and Technology, Art Colley, answered a question from one of the residents in attendance about cost of , which will give each incoming high school freshman a tablet computer to use through their high school careers.
The program will be incorporated throughout Brookfield High School (BHS) through a “four-year rollout,” Colley explained, being paid for through a “restructuring of our copying budget.”
“We’re replacing the older, more expensive equipment with new, less expensive equipment and all that’s being done while keeping our budget flat,” he said.
The district has worked out a deal with the vendor that will reduce the cost to the district, upgrade the current machines before their contract leases are complete and put the savings toward the iPad initiative, however, “The renegotiated copier contract is contingent on us buying these iPads,” according to Board of Education (BOE) Chairman Ray DiStephan, answering questions about whether the copier savings could have been put toward more necessary needs of the district.
“, it’s much more about learning how to use the research tools available — the iPad’s incidental,” DiStephan added. “Also, the kids are out-of-their-minds excited. If you can get kids excited about learning, you’re headed in the right direction.”
A second hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the BHS auditorium, where residents will be able to see the entire presentation, give comments and ask questions.
The BOF's proposal has to be finalized by Tuesday, April 19, for the May 3 Annual Town Meeting to set the referendum date, which by town charter would be between Wednesday, May 11, and Tuesday, May 17.