The Board of Finance (BOF) voted last week to reduce the 2012-2013 budget proposal by approximately $475,000 — $235,000 from the municipal budget and $240,000 from education. This proposal will go to a public hearing Tuesday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the (BHS) auditorium before the BOF finalizes the budget for the Annual Town Meeting, May 1.
The BOF passed the most recent proposal with a split vote, 3-3, with the tiebreaking “yae” coming from First Selectman Bill Davidson, an ex-officio member of the board who only votes in a tie.
According to Davidson, the proposed budget is “inadequate to meet some of the wants and needs of the town’s people,” but “not grossly inadequate,” he said.
“Some of the reductions on the town side we’ll find a way to deal with,” Davidson said, however — increasing clerical hours in the , more hours for Social Services and the and an additional part-time position at the — will likely be nixed, for a total of $35,000.
Davidson said he voted for the reduced proposal after “considering the conversation over Tuesday and Wednesday and the entire month of March, I got a feeling of where the board was at.” Had he voted no, the likely result would have been another motion “for lower numbers… and it would be supported,” in his assessment.
“It’s not horrific,” he said of the cuts, but, “It’s the difference between quality programs for residents and just getting through another year.”
On the education side, the reduction will likely mean a reduction in employees, according to Board of Education (BOE) Chairman Ray DiStephan, though the board will be officially discussing the cuts for the first time at their Wednesday night meeting.
“This is a major adjustment,” DiStephan said, as the $240,000 is nearly half a percent of the school budget, “And will probably mean a reduction in head count… we just have to talk about which heads.”
DiStephan said the BOE will likely not make a specific recommendation on how to adjust for the cuts until after the public hearing and the BOF’s proposal is finalized, though if it stands as-is, the earlier this year, as well as would be removed.
“That would just about barely get us there,” he said, stating that there are “not a lot of places to go” within the budget.
Phil Kurtz, a , said he viewed the current proposal as a “compromise budget,” wherein “not everybody got what they wanted, but it is a fair compromise.”
Kurtz said he and fellow new BOF member Robin Appleby were and while the proposed 2.41 percent increase is “maybe not 100 percent like we would like, it’s not 100 percent like what they would like, either.” However, he believes the cuts should not be crippling and the “schools can still go forward with, if not all the programs they wanted, most,” such as , even if an additional teacher cannot be hired.
Appleby, who said he voted against the proposal because it was too high, said he wanted to get the spending increase below 2 percent.
The 1.99 percent threshold is “sort of arbitrary,” Appleby admitted, “But probably further than the people want me to go,” he added, as he would have liked to keep spending as flat as possible year-over-year.
“The question is not if we can get to an arbitrary number, it’s about services,” said BOF member Ron Jaffe, who voted against the proposal along with Appleby and member Jen Tomaino, though Jaffe and Tomaino were in favor of the higher budget proposed by the Board of Selectmen (BOS). “We’re not a business — government is in the business of providing services.”
“Part of the equation has to be what do we think is a reasonable budget,” he agreed, however, “In this environment, where most people’s taxes would be reduced , the budgets that were presented were good, tight budgets.”
All members of the BOF urged residents to attend the April 10 public hearing to voice their opinions before the proposal is finalized.
When it comes to the budget, “Historically, the Board of Finances have listened to what people say at the public hearings,” according to Davidson.