The Brookfield Board of Finance (BOF) is holding a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the (BHS) auditorium to hear comments on the , a total of $56,646,000 — $19,696,000 for town operations and $36,950,000 for the schools — a 2.41 percent increase in spending over 2011-12.
The BOF proposal cut approximately $475,000 from the budget proposed by the Board of Selectmen (BOS), . Since that time, a group of Brookfield residents have been circulating a petition asking the BOF to put the BOS budget to voters, garnering the support of almost 460 residents as of Monday evening.
“We’re asking them to give us a chance to vote on the selectmen’s budget,” explained petition organizer Kathie Schilling, who spearheaded the effort with husband David Propper (who she credits with the idea).
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“We’re not trying to antagonize anyone here,” she added, “We just think it’s a good year for dealing” with certain issues, such as class sizes and in the schools and the part-time clerk for , as the recent revaluation will mean little to no tax impact on the majority of Brookfield residents.
Schilling, Propper and other community members have been circulating hard copies of the petition and directing voters to an online version, which has over 250 signatures as of Wednesday night, added to the 200-plus Schilling had on hand.
As they have been collected, the petitioners have been cross-checking the names with the voter registration roles and weeding out anonymous and duplicate signatures in order to get an accurate view of the level of support. According to Schilling’s calculations, 33 percent of signatories are registered Republicans, 31 percent are Democrats and 36 percent unaffiliated or registered with a minor party.
“It takes 400 signatures to force a referendum, to overturn a decision of the selectmen or to lower the budget at the Annual Town Meeting,” Schilling said, acknowledging that the petition does not hold any legal weight but will show support for the BOS budget at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The Board of Finance is going to listen to what the public has to say,” Finance Chairman Jerry Friedrich said, though, “If they’re just saying put money back, there should be a compelling reason.”
The BOF proposal as it stands has the support of most of the Finance Board members and is a “reasonable proposal,” according to Friedrich.
“The budgets are fair,” he said. “There’s enough money for the Board of Education to do what they want to do, everything they need to do.”
Since the last proposal was voted on, new information has also come to light in the form of $109,000 in insurance savings for the school district, bringing the reduction from the BOS budget to $131,000.
Friedrich also said he is watching movement in Hartford closely, as a bill going before the legislature may mean more state funding for magnet schools, taking that burden off of the public school systems. That could net the district an additional $40,000 or so.
“I think it’s a reasonable budget,” Friedrich reiterated, however he will wait to see what the public says at Tuesday’s hearing and, ultimately, how they vote in May.