The Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted 2-1 to send a $57,116,996 budget proposal for 2012-2013 to the Board of Finance (BOF), which will begin deliberations on Tuesday, March 6. The proposal represents a 3.3 percent increase in spending ($1.8 million), however, with the completion of the revaluation, residents who saw a 20 percent decrease in the value of their homes (the average for residential properties) will actually see a slight decrease in their tax bills.
For a home with a previous value of $300,000, under the previous mill rate the taxes were $5,982. With the projected mill rate of 24.77 under the BOS proposal, the same home, now valued at $240,000, would pay $5,944, a reduction of $38.
A straw poll of the BOS members before the final vote showed that all three were in favor of the proposed municipal budget (town operating expenses, debt and capital), which came in at $19,931,451. However, Selectman George Walker did not think the board spent enough time on the education budget, which ultimately led him to vote against the BOS proposal.
“I feel there should be some further reductions in the education budget,” he explained. When asked for specifics, Walker suggested the BOS “should have looked at the additional two teachers a lot closer. Taking that into account and other things, in my opinion, that reduction should have been somewhere in the $100-$200,000 range.”
Walker supported much of , though in the current economic climate, he could not justify adding more teachers to the school staff.
“The rationale for the addition of the teachers was essentially the class sizes,” he said. “I step back from it and I say, you know, class sizes aren’t that bad… I feel that in today’s world here, how important is class size at this particular junction in time?”
“We went through a tremendous amount of detail here with the town budget,” Walker continued. “It’s a term I don’t like to use, but we’re basically rubber stamping it and passing it on.”
“I can’t rationalize the things we’ve added on the town side and then take away from the schools,” Selectman Howard Lasser opined. “How can we add a police officer but not a teacher, expand the hours and then take some initiative away from the schools?”
First Selectman Bill Davidson agreed, arguing that the school administration and BOE have the best standing for forming their budget.
“The Board of Ed to my mind is to the school system as the Board of Selectmen is to the town: they make the decisions on where the spending is,” he said. “If I sent our budget to the Board of Ed and said, ‘Hey guys, what do you think,’ they’d have some ideas.”
“If there were things in there that I didn’t think were merited, we’d be in a race” to remove them, Davidson added. However, “When I look at how tight their budget came in and where their plan for additional spending is, that makes sense and I think this community can afford it.”
View the full BOS 2012-13 proposal in the attached PDF, as well as Davidson’s letter to the BOF outlining the major new initiatives contained within.