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Finance Board Restores Funding Without Raising Tax Rate

Board of Finance finalizes 2012-13 proposal with 2 percent mill rate increase.

The Board of Finance (BOF) voted 5-1 to add $122,000 back to the 2012-13 budget proposal at their last meeting, offsetting that with an addition of $200,000 to the projected revenue lines for collection of prior year taxes and supplemental taxes — new property tax that purchased or built after the year’s grand list is set.

The board also decided to use a more conservative number for projected uncollected taxes. Rather than projecting 99.1 percent collection, as was used for calculating the mill rate in the Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) budget, the BOF chose to use 98.86 percent, a figure more in line with the five-year average.

Because of these offsetting moves, the proposal raises the increase in spending over 2011-12 from 2.41 percent to 2.63 percent, however the increase to the mill rate would remain the same at 2 percent, bringing it from an adjusted 24.06 to 24.54.

After some deliberation, BOF member Jen Tomaino suggested restoring $36,300 to the municipal budget and $86,000 to the education budget. The motion gained the favor of five of the six board members, with new member Robin Appleby voting against.

The $36,300 for the town includes restoring $20,000 to the budget, , $3,000 to the audit line, which was under funded, and $1,600 to the to correct an error.

On the education side, the and requested that they increase the pension contribution for next year by $60,000, effectively decreasing the Board of Education’s (BOE) funding by $295,000.

After the deduction had been made, the BOE received word of a $109,000 savings in their insurance plans to help mitigate that decrease, bringing it down to $186,000.

“Along with the money we put back, that should be enough” to cover the BOE’s needs, Tomaino said in an interview. “That’s a number they think would work. It accommodates all the services we were hoping to provide in the original budget without increasing the tax rate.”

After consultation with interim Town Controller Jay Wahlberg, BOF Vice Chairman Irv Agard said he has a “fairly high degree of comfort” that the new revenue projections are viable.

“They’re very conservative,” he said, as with both lines, “The five-year average is just about the number we’re going with.”

With supplemental taxes, “back between the recessions [2003-2007] we were getting around $600,000 a year,” Agard said, with the current year on track to bring in $400,000.

“Southwest Connecticut is doing better than Connecticut in general” in terms of sale of new property — vehicles or land — and new construction — decks, swimming pools, additions — Agard noted, giving the BOF confidence to increase that revenue line from $300,000 to $400,000.

For the collection of prior year taxes, Agard said prior years have been in the low $400,000 range, prompting the BOF to add another $100,000 there to meet that level.

The board also considered adding another $50,000 to the revenue line for the Land Use Office. However, department members said Thursday that they were “unwilling to commit” to that number, Agard said.

Agard said he spoke with members of the BOE who were comfortable that a $100,000 decrease would not affect any of the “base or new programs.”

“In my mind, we got the tax rate increase at 2 percent and this budget is a service to the town [taxpayers] and the Board of Education,” he said.

Dissenting BOF member Appleby said he could not vote for a 2.63 percent increase.

“This could have been an easy year to have no increase if there was the political will,” Appleby said, as the town had considerable savings in health insurance plans, revenue from bond premiums and concessions from town and school unions. “I can’t go to 2.63 percent.”

“There are a lot of needs” in the town and schools, Appleby said, “But there are a lot of people hurting out there, too.”

Laura Orban April 13, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I am very grateful that our Boards of Selectmen, Education and Finance worked together to come up with a plan that meets the needs of our town. It's easy to post comments on a website (especially anonymously) with next-day ideas about what to do and how to do it. Watching these Boards work through the details, it's clear that there are no simple answers. Our budgets were developed with great care, we have hard-working Board members and people that listened to the feedback from the town. I thank the Board of Finance as well as the Boards of Selectmen and Education for their service, and I look forward to seeing this budget pass.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Ray- once again thanks for your open and honest response - I can always count on you to help me see my way thru things - Although we agree to disagree on some points - You are a true asset to our town-
Ray DiStephan April 13, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Thank you for all of your comments and thoughts. It is fine to disagree. We ned to find common ground and focus on those to move things forward vs. getting stuck on where we disagree.
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Yes! MANY people have a problem with that fact! You say you are a "longtime Brookfield resident"? One does NOT have to be here long time to see the pattern: it happens EVERY year now--for MANY years! First, the BOE comes up with a budget (most of that budget is padded to pay for pension, salary and benefits FROM PREVIOUS years over-commitments, also). Second, the BOS rubber-stamps the budget--doing absolutely nothing to protect ALL the citizen's interest/concerns. Third, USUALLY the BOF rubber-stamps the budget also--with very few exceptions. This year's an exception where the BOF actually stepped up & stepped in & said--listen, enough with the 3% to 4% (MORE in earlier years) increases! Fourth, USUALLY the people VOTE DOWN--vote against the BOE rubber-stamped budget, & the process goes all over again until the INCREASE EVERY YEAR is reduced to "only a TWO OR A FEW PERCENT". (Unfortunately, the greedy BOE never gets the message even in hard economic times--because they have had the FAT for decades, & government/public budgets are the last to "get real". (See the municipalities around the country going broke, declaring bankruptcy, or even privatizing failed education and government concerns....there simply is NO accountability that is REALISTIC.) BUT, here is the punch line--watch my lips carefully: (See the punch line above!)
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 01:57 PM
(Continued from comment below--please read that comment first.) This ALWAYS happens AFTER the budget's passed: NO MATTER HOW MUCH KICKING & SCREAMING'S DONE OVER & THROUGH THE BUDGET PROCESS BY THE BOE & EDUCATION LOBBY ELITE (NOT representative of the population, but with large, er, voices, to be delicate...), ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, AFTER THE BUDGET's PASSED, ALL OF A SUDDEN--OH, LOOK WHAT WE FOUND!! WE DIDN'T KNOW WE HAD THIS SAVINGS OVER HERE, & THAT ONE OVER THERE, & LOOK ANOTHER HERE--LOOKIE, LOOKIE WHAT WE FOUND!! So we can have keep our fat to pay outlandishly out-dated pensions & benefit packages-- & we still don't have to be very accountable. We have the public hostage because--if they take their kid out of our(failing)system, we STIIL GET THEIR TAX MONEY....win - win for us! Yippee! [And if you don't believe me, I have the news articles & website links & budgets to prove EVERY single year the BOE "discovers" money after the budget's passed--it's PLANNED that way. Listen carefully: education people feel that they "walk on water", literally. They feel they don't need to answer HARD/SERIOUS questions--they won't even easily/directly answer a PARENTS hard question who has a child in the school system. They feel there "is something wrong" with anyone who asks questions about public education money & processes (unless you KA them) -- & they're TAUGHT that way & parrots of teacher & education UNIONS. Have you ever seen/read a Teacher Union newsletter???? Wake up people!
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Leave it to Ray D to pat (really himself) on the back quite often.... ;) Keep up the hard work for the taxpayer, Ray. You are working for ALL of us. (feel the dripping sarcasm?)
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Also, leave it to Ray D to be a VAGUE as a public servant could possibly be while using other people's money. Just read his comments, and you will see NOT A SINGLE specific fact that answers any hard question or addresses any past failing of this process--you will only see comments like: "Will they be felt? Yes." Please explain what that means, actually?
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Ray--SERVING the public--calls what is FACTUALLY almost a THREE PERCENT increase--he calls it, and I quote..."barely a 2 percent increase". Go out to a public forum of all unemployed, underemployed, and frozen salaried people, boast about your "accomplishments" and then whine about 3 % increases EVERY YEAR--and for DECADES more than 3% increases. I dare you.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 13, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Ryen- I feel your frustations but you need to be more respectful of our elected and NON paid officials as they DONATE a lot of time and effort and get pulled in many directions - they do have to work for ALL of us unfortunately there is a huge Gambit of economics in Brookfield and they have to look at the big picture - yes I feel the same as you do about there being more room for cuts with NO impact and have offered a few suggestions on how to save 150k - but to attack our elected officials personally is NOT the way to get points across
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 02:09 PM
If you watch the local news, watch this website, go to education and budget meetings, and listen to the "education elite" and the "education lobby" and the "KAs"--you will virtually ALWAYS here this sort of platitude (NO FACTS or specifics--only PLATITUDES): "They worked so hard and I KNOW they came up with a plan that meets the needs of our town...." That statement actually says nothing. There is nothing easier than Googling a few educational platitudes from the history books, going to a meeting, and spouting them off smoothly--requires NO WORK, no education, no hard questions, just (superficially) sounds good--especially to the herd.... Great.
Ryen April 13, 2012 at 02:14 PM
The "Magic Increase Bus" continues to ride! Year in and year out.... And the schools continue to "suffer" and "struggle through" all the hardship and adversity they face...amazing. Get onto one of the school buses that is TOTALLY mismanaged by inept staff or hear some inside stories about the "problem behaviors" and "bullying" that goes on in the school. And all the incidents that are "smoothed over". I guess you do not get that at a BOE meeting? (Oooops...is sarcasm allowed on this website?)
Kathie Schilling April 13, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Ryen, if you feel your point of view is not adequately represented, you should run for a position on the Board of Education.
Steven DeVaux April 13, 2012 at 04:07 PM
No wonder the town controller that was hired walked after the first day of seeing how Brookfield's works. No wonder New Milford hired one three times faster than Brookfield, for a third less and with high qualifications. Come to think of it, it appears Brookfield has a hard time attracting local talent given the fact that the last offer went to a New Britain former employee. Says a lot.
Steven DeVaux April 13, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Bob, Anyone can go here: http://www.energyeducation.com/ and see what I have been saying for YEARS with it all falling on deaf ears at the Brookfield Board of Education. It would have amounted to over $1,000,000 in savings since I began recommending it.
Steven DeVaux April 13, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I've recommended guaranteed energy savings that New Milford and dozens of other towns have been using for years now and the Brookfield Board of Education has consistently failed to afford themselves of the opportunity with a net savings that could easily be in the six figures, guaranteed and proven in other adjacent local towns. Now why is that? They are not acting in the taxpayers best interest and everything I said is documented. Just go to: http://www.energyeducation.com/OurServices/OurGuarantee/tabid/66/Default.aspx and see for yourself. Don't support an inflated budget that refuses to harvest low hanging fruit in six figures. Don't give them the money and challenge them to do the right thing and don't not spend it....save it!
Ray DiStephan April 13, 2012 at 05:11 PM
As I posted on January 23, 2012: FACT - Our budget increases for the past 4 years - through 2011-12 - have been: 2008-09 1.24% 2009-10 -0.26% 2010-11 4.15% 2011-12 2.06% Total 7.19% Avg % per year - 1.80% FACT - We have reduced electricity from a high of $788,084 to $570,000 in the 2011-12 budget, a reduction of over $218,000 - a 27.7% reduction, This is due to negotiating better rates through Constellation New Energy (for both the BOE and Town) and the completion of energy efficient lighting projects in all buildings and parking lots. With a rate reduction of 11% effective 6/1//2011, we anticipate further reductions in 2012-13. Regarding Education Energy – The BOE and the administration have never received any communication from anyone regarding this firm. The link is below. While they say they will save 20-30% off our utility bills, it requires the hiring of an Energy Education Specialist to coordinate the program. However, we will investigate further. But we have still controlled our costs exceptionally well. http://www.energyeducation.com/OurServices/tabid/58/Default.aspx
Longtime Brookfield resident April 13, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Ray- How about looking at changing / evolving the cirriculum leader position as well at Center like i have asked - Like I said i see value to the position being filled by Current teachers and pay them a stipend - This wouyld have REAL savings like I have said. Currently the position is being filled temporarily by a teacher anyway due to the current status of Principle. Again would see very little or no impact by using teachers with stipends for this position and yeild same results at huge value. I am sure we can find a admin position for the current interim Principle remember this position is for Kindergarten and First grade and the position currently pays 100k
Ray DiStephan April 13, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Incidently, New Milford stopped using Energy Education in 2010
JM April 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Well most of them
JM April 13, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Ray ,You mean Steve got another fact wrong?
Ray DiStephan April 13, 2012 at 06:23 PM
LBR, as ppromse at the end of January on one of these threads, I asked about this at a BOE meeting. If you look here: http://videos.brookfieldps.org/video/32 at the 1 hour and 35 minute mark, I asked about the curriculum leaders and even said that it was prompted by questions I had received from residents online. We heard an extensive description and history of the curriculum leaders from the superintendent, assistant superintendent and the principals from CES and HHES. The BOE was satisifed that these are needed positions. You may disagree after viewing, but that is how we saw it (respectfully).
Ray DiStephan April 13, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Also... this is a teacher-level position and salary is determined by the terms of the teacher contract.
Two Sides April 13, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I seriously wonder if we would have the same comments out here if the taxes were based on how many school-aged or younger children live (own property OR rent property but have kids) in the household. I am more than fine paying into the town education system -- to a degree. . Perhaps if you tax parents the extra and discount seniors and singles, we would have less to debate each year at budget time.
Ignorance_is_Dangerous April 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Apparently Two Sides has a problem with the very foundation that made the country the leading producer / economy in the world at the time of the industrial revolution. It is the very "novel" idea of public libaries, public education and other institutions that benefit the society as a whole that vaulted us to where we are. In fact, unless Two Sides went to a snooty private school - the taxes his/her parents paid in no way would have provided a 13 year education. What if I only drive 1 mile on Brookfield roads before hitting the interstate - I dont want to pay all that money to fix potholes all over town.... Oh, I dont want to buy the Air Force another B2 bomber - so I'm holding back on my Federal Income taxes. Does work that way Two Sides - sorry.
Ignorance_is_Dangerous April 13, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Apparently Ryen has got a chip on his shoulder about not getting a raise. He fails to make a distinction between "salary" and "budget". I bet in those companies where no raises were given they did in fact have items in their budgets increase. They had to spend more for gas and oil, had to spend more on health insurance, had to spend more on countless other things beyond "salaries". Yes, in the case of teachers they have a union and a contract that provides them raises. More experienced Teachers receive increases and tenure, etc. Thats a fact and a different argument for a different place/time. The BOE has to deal with these realities. So, after all that if they can report only very modest year over year increases in the TOTAL BUDGET that is a major feat! I fail to see how these elected, volunteer officials can be "greedy". Perhaps Ryen, unlike you, they have lived with the budget, line item by line item, and understand the implications of every wrinkle or change. To sit from a far and cast anecdotal stones is weak.
Steven DeVaux April 14, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Yeah, they switched to Siemens. They still are using LESS energy (watts/gallons) and Siemens too is guaranting the savings so there is no risk. Folks can check it out at: http://www.housatonictimes.com/articles/2009/06/19/community_news/20333712.txt
Steven DeVaux April 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Ray, It is the usage that isn't being controlled. And when it comes to savings usage is consistently the bigger savings.
Linda Taylor April 15, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I was at the BOF meeting and I believe Dr. Appleby was just making sure that "for the record" he was counted as voting no. I applaud him for voting his conscience. I would hope you elect BOF members that watch your tax dollars VERY carefully!!
Linda Taylor April 16, 2012 at 12:29 AM
We were all under the impression that the budget was going to be voted on that evening and there were many of us in attendance for support on either side of the cause. They decided to not vote on the budget as they needed to get more info. from Jay..There was a question as to whether they were going to vote on the motion that Jenn had brought forth. The town DOES get to vote on the budget...in fact the town DOES have the last word!
Ryen January 25, 2013 at 03:06 AM
@ Ignorance: Your premise and primary comment are more than "weak"--they are inexcusable. To claim that the BOE and the town "cannot do anything" because they are bound and victimized by past "contracts" and budget is totally LAME. Because the BOE and/or town made BAD decisions in the past with other people's money and alienated and irritated 50% to 70% of an entire town is PATHETIC. This is basically what you are saying: We are victims on the teacher's unions. We can do nothing about it but go forward and rubber stamp it and "deal with the 'reality'"--no matter the cost or no matter how it compares to other businesses and economic reality today? Planning that did not consider "rainy days" or downturns in the economy? Google and read "The Real Fiscal Cliff" to see why THAT IS EXACTLY the problem that has RUINED OUR COUNTRY and got us where we are. Ignorance is a good first name for you--that is the lamest blog comment I have ever seen, shows no courage, and says NOTHING of essence! LOL

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