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Petition Requests Town Vote on Selectmen's Budget

Residents will present 450-plus signatures at Tuesday night's public hearing.

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).

[Editor's Note: .]

“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.

Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I do not understand how the RECENT revaluation will have little or no impact on Brookfield residents - This statement bothers me and is VERY misleading to general public. Just because your house value was reduced does NOT mean that the mill rate wont change. The town needs so much money to OPERATE and that comes from the taxpayers. So you WILL be paying the same amount of TAXES if the budget had ZERO increase ANY INCREASE IN BUDGET WILL RESULT IN INCREASE OF TAXES
Bee Rye April 10, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Lbr is right the personal property taxes (car tax) wil skyrocket due to the mill rate
Jennifer Pashkin Scott April 10, 2012 at 12:54 PM
“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.” Thank you to the BoF for being willing to listen to the people! Now, People, please come tonight to the Public Hearing and Speak Out on behalf of our kids, forward progress in our community and the future of our town!
Aaron Boyd (Editor) April 10, 2012 at 01:36 PM
The thought process works like this: the mill rate will increase, however because the majority of residents saw their property values decrease by a larger margin, they will be paying a smaller share of the new rate and substantively less than they did last year. But you are correct, for the town as a whole, collectively, the request is a tax increase. Hope that helps.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I personally think the BOF did the right thing in reducing each budget to a more reasonable increase as we are all struggling with our own personal finances and are not yet into a full recovery. I appreciate the BOF fiscal responsiblity during this tough economic period. I strongly feel that the BOF reduction can be accomodated without any real impact as I simply have a very difficult time believing that the BOS proposed budget is that tight as well as the BOE budget. I strongly feel that reversing the BOF budget will result in this budghet being voted down and that the town will incur extra costs associated with second referendum- Will those who signed the petition pick up those extra costs if the BOF puts the funds back in and the town votes this budget down
Dr. Robin Appleby April 10, 2012 at 02:15 PM
"This could easily be the year of NO spending increase in the budget, if there was the political will" was told to me by 3 previous BOF members with over 20 years of combined service. Thanks to the one year savings from the teachers' contract and healthcare changes and about 30 less students (a drop of about 285 students since 2004-5). Brookfield is spending over $ 13,600 per student (last year's Education budget including interest and principle on the BHS project minus the 30 less students). This is very generous of the taxpayers, considering how many are struggling with job loss or cutbacks, no raises for years, rising gas, oil, food, healthcare & dental care, education costs, etc. Tax Freedom Day comes last for CT. residents...May 5 th. We have the heaviest tax burden of all 50 states. Yet Gov. Malloy and the Democrats just raised 50 taxes by $ 1.5 billion dollars. The Brookfield Democrats are back every year working hard for bigger government, higher taxes, more government workers, more regulations. Like a friend just told me, "they act like there is unlimited money". There is very hard economic times for many, many families and the elderly. The year after year spending and tax increases are NOT helping them. Many are just hanging on by their fingertips. Trying to raise taxes on them now shows a real lack of empathy and caring.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Aaron I am more at a loss/ confused - If the MAJORITY of residents saw thier property value decrease then the MILL rate will have to be increased to meet the needs of the town budget. An increase is an increase period. I can not see the Majority of TAX payers paying less taxes - where does the difference come from - If majority is paying SUBSTANTIALLY less then who is paying that much more ?? The MINORITY is picking up the substantial less ??
Aaron Boyd (Editor) April 10, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Property values did rise for commercial holdings in Brookfield, who will now be picking up a larger portion of the tab.
Howard Lasser April 10, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Taxes are apportioned to each property based on their proportion of value to the whole of the town. Because properties change in value at different rates, when you do revaluation, the proportion of tax any one property will be assessed will change even if there is no change in the total amount of taxes (i.e. no change in spending) to be collected. This year because residential property declined in value at a greater rate than the total average for the town, the proportion of taxes assessed to residential properties will be smaller than it otherwise would have been. For this reason a resident who saw his assessment decline in value by 20% or more, about 2/3 of the town, will see a reduction in their taxes under the proposed budget.
Howard Lasser April 10, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Robin, When you campaigned for office you said we did not need to cut services, that you had hundreds of ideas on how the town could save money. Do you think now is the time to share some of those ideas? When do you think is? You complain about state and federal taxes, but Brookfield's taxes are among the lowest in the state and the proposed budget would not raise taxes on 2/3 of the town residents.
Howard Lasser April 10, 2012 at 04:13 PM
"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.” I would agree with Mr. Freidrich if the BOF had compelling reasons for the reductions they proposed. During their deliberations the BOF did not find any areas of waste or inefficiencies. In fact, the reductions were, by their own admission, arbitrary with no compelling rationale other than a bottom line target. The community should be given an opportunity to vote on the proposals of those responsible for delivering the services without the restrictions of arbitrarily imposed limitations.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Howard- Thanks for your response - so 2/3 of all residents of Brookfield will pay less taxes in dollars in 2012 than they did in 2011 ? so even under the proposed BOS budget that we will pay less ? I am really struggling with this as it just does not make sense that 2/3 will be paying less
Howard Lasser April 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM
The fact is according to the actual data, home values declined in value by over 22%, while the overall average decline in value for the Grand List was about 17%. There is a tax calculator on the Town's web site that anyone can use to put in their valuations last year and this to see what their taxes would be under the proposal by the BOS. See for yourself.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Howard- Dont you think the Bottom line target is a good idea ?? We all have our bottom line targets its called our salaries - We bring in X dollars per month- Some of us are unfortunate to have to spend X plus some already to meet our current obligations - We simply can not pay ANY more - if your assement is that 2/3 of ALL brookfield tax payers will be paying less than maybe it will be a chance for some of us to catch up on our bills and maybe even put some back into our depleted savings accounts. I am sorry but the reality is that most of US are just plain tapped out. I see no COMPELLING issue to put these funds back in and see the BOF target as being reasonable
Laura Orban April 10, 2012 at 04:45 PM
You hit the nail on the head. The compelling reason is that the subject matter experts - the Principals, Administration and Board of Education - built a thorough budget proposal documenting what we needed and why. The budget they proposed IS the case. Mr. Freidrich's statement exemplifies the problem. The Board of Finance should not be picking a number and asking residents to prove it wrong. They should be working with the other Boards to come up with a reasonable plan that meets the needs of our town.
David Propper April 10, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I find it interesting that years ago, I heard many people complain that they were tired of government always asking for more money by taking last year's budget and simply (and arbitrarily) added additions. They yelled for a bottoms-up stack of the budget. Well, we have it. The school administration, department heads, boards and others came to the BoF and explained what services they wanted to deliver and how much it would cost to deliver those services. No arbitrariness to it. I sat in on 2 of the BoF's final meetings and listened to a 3rd on Channel 17. I heard very little, if any, actual discussion of ways to deliver the service level at a lower cost. When it came time to vote on an actual budget proposal, the figure of 1.99% (because it was "less than 2%) was proposed it was felt that this is what it takes to get a budget passed in Brookfield. Several BoF members will tell you that they are not cutting services but they are only telling the BoS and BoE how much they can spend. However, the BoF members know the overall impact on the services, pensions balance, and infrastructure. They better. They sat in meetings where they were told how the budgets were prepared. They know that our pensions are already underfunded. They know that we don’t spend enough to maintain our roads on an ongoing basis (but they recommended to reduce the capital budget).
David Propper April 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
This petition makes one simple request. Put forward the budget proposals from the BoS and BoE (after accounting for the insurance savings which always comes late in the budgeting cycle). Let the voters decided. That is the nature of our Town Meeting form of government.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Mr Propper - I have offered many suggestions in past - For one lets eliminate the cirriculum leader at Center school and have a teacher from each of Kindergarten and First Grade perform that task- Give them each a $5,000 stipend to perform this task for Kindergarten and First Grade - Savings would be a minimum of 100k yes 100k per year. We are talking about curriculum for First Grade and Kindergarteners - We have EXPERT teachers who basically supply the information already for the cirriculum leader - Do we really need to spend 100k plus on a leader at this level- Secondly lets look at LEGAL costs accumulated buy the School system - what did it cost us to remove Doc Wolkind ? Are there any other cases that we are currently exhausting unnecessary legal fees on ? So basically I have removed atleast 150k out of proposed budget already and have had ZERO impact on education we provide to our children. Rob Giannazza stated in another blog that we need to consolidate the Schools admin staff and focus on eliminating / reducing OVERHEAD costs- This is basic business 101 - what you are proposing is that the 1% percenters who have UNLIMITED funds should allow frivilous spending- Why not raise taxes 100% so we can have GOLD statues at Town Hall. Bottom line is we NEED people like the BOF ( Company Controller) to keep spending in check
Ron Jaffe April 10, 2012 at 06:08 PM
The tax calculator can be downloaded from this page: http://www.brookfieldct.gov/Pages/BrookfieldCT_Selectmen/index Click on 'Property Tax Comparison Calculator' under Additional Links.
Chris Scott April 10, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Its irresponsible for a body convened to determine a budget to listen to budget presentations justifing the requests, not take issue with individual spending items and then make an arbituary cut for a number. Residents of other towns know from experience that, arbitrary across-the-board cuts create deficits in education, as well as deficits in core infrastructure that lead to more and more failures in critical services for residents. We must choose to reject that approach and instead fund what we decide needs funding and cut funding from those programs we choose to not support. Giving the public the chance to vote for the origional as submitted numbers is the right way to empower the voters and send a clear message to the BoF, do your job, the whole job. Don't just present a number but instead present a number that is meaningful and demonstrates you have looked at the hard issues and made hard choices. This is unacceptable as it stands.
Tami Doto Coleman April 10, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Thank you, Ron, for posting the link to the property tax calculator! I just ran my numbers and was pleasantly surprised. I suggest that others do the same.
Howard Lasser April 10, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Mr LBR, it is your contention that "We simply can not pay any more". It is certainly true that some people are having difficulty in these challenging times. That is why the budget put forward by the BOS was modest in its proposals. In terms of new items it included a new police officer, small expansion of services in the library and Senior Center and provided for investment in planning that will pay off by supporting development which will lower taxes in the long run. My position is, the budget delivers services I believe the people want at reasonable costs and with great efficiency. Rather than make an arbitrary decision, what is wrong with letting the people vote on the budget that delivers those services?
Steven DeVaux April 10, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Respect the process even if you don't respect the outcome. The process was followed. That is the hallmark of a democratically elected government.
Brookfield Resident April 10, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I find it very interesting that the town leaders are glossing over the fact that even those who will see a decrease on the their property taxes will still see an overall increase in tax burden. How? Use that tax calculator, and the default values there - a $68 decrease on home property taxes, but if you have automobiles worth only $15K, it more than wipes out this decrease because of the mill rate (and most people in Brookfield homeowners likely have cars worth more than $15K - at $30K, it becomes a net tax INCREASE of $78.) There is some slick math going on here, and people will be bitterly disappointed when their overall taxes rise. In this economy, we need to be looking at ways to cut spending, not increase it. I pay a lot of taxes in this town, and although I have only been here about 2 years, when property values return (IF they do, in this highly taxed town), I will be actively seeking a lower tax town like Bridgewater, or somewhere else to live in. Our collective tax burden is enough. Stop the slick math, and show people what their REAL taxes are going to do - go UP under this proposal. A more responsible, lower budget is needed now.
Longtime Brookfield resident April 10, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Howard , what I am saying is I just can not afford more plain and simple, this is not a nicety but a reality, I would love a Mercedes but simply can not afford one. I can only hope that the town can sympathise , the positions you suggest such as police officer I can agree with as well as the others you suggest , but like I said we can cut consolidate elsewhere to accomodate these at zero increase , zero impact.
Steven DeVaux April 10, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Follow our town charter as independently elected boards. Don't pull a Congress and try and please everyone. And please, PLEASE fund the town's pension plan with the amount recommended by the town's paid professional actuaries. The Board of Selectmen FAILED to properly fund the pension. If that requires less spending elsewhere, so be it but the town's employees deserve a properly funded pension plan in accordance with non-political, independent numbers provided by the experts.
Steven DeVaux April 10, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Robin, If kids did what they are doing they would be considered bullies and subjected to the Board of Education's bully policy.
Brookfield Mom April 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM
LBR - Can you tell me what a curriculum leader does? I've heard many people make suggestions for eliminating positions (particularly in schools) without any actual knowledge of what the person does. I could make the argument that a curriculum leader is more necessary in kindergarten than in higher grades because kindergarten is where students learn the foundational skills needed to be successful later on.
Marissa May 02, 2012 at 08:03 PM
An elementary school curriculum leader does far more than people realize. This is not something that could be done by a teacher who is teaching a class of 20+ students (not if both jobs are to be done well). There simply isn't enough time in a day for a Kindergarten or 1st Grade teacher to do all that is required of them as well as being a curriculum leader. While it does vary from district to district (and I can't speak for the current job descriptions in Brookfield), some of the things I have seen CL do include: planning professional development, coaching and co-teaching with teachers to improve teaching, ensuring that teachers have the information and materials needed to teach lessons aligned with district and state standards, organize and monitor remediation services for students below grade level - and enrichment for those above grade level, providing intervention services for students in need of intense remediation, providing training and guidance in the use of paraprofessionals (for teachers and paras), working with teachers to revise curriculum based on district/state changes, supervise the administration of standardize testing (training proctors, planning accommodations, etc.), and much more. It is not uncommon for districts to have a Language Arts CL as well as one for Math/Science in each building. Brookfield may need to evaluate their use of reading/math specialists, consultants, and CLs so that these much needed positions are being utilized efficiently.

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