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Split Vote Sends 3.3 Percent Spending Increase to BOF

Board of Selectmen vote 2-1 on 2012-13 budget proposal.

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.

Ryen March 03, 2012 at 05:31 AM
I totally agree with Mr. DeVaux.
Ryen March 03, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Huh? Come again?? 20% INCREASES??????? LOL Oh my Lord.... These threads are TOO FUNNY (in a sad way)....
Ryen March 03, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Constantly throwing increased money at something is NOT the only way or the BEST way to improve it. It is sad that people who claim they "value education" and want to "improve education" basically only think that education is improved by constantly spending more money. If history of the public schools in this country shows us ANYTHING AT ALL--it has proven that constantly spending more money on education HAS NOT constantly improved the schools. It has bankrupted cities and states and the quality of education has stayed the same or gone down, generally speaking. A shame.
Ryen March 03, 2012 at 06:37 AM
The current Education budgets are in fact unsustainable without increases due to the outright and blatant greed and shortsightedness of the teacher unions and the civil servant leadership and the public education bureaucracy. Here are some quotes from the Wall Street Journal regarding a Democrat education activist and education reform: Quote One: "Teachers' unions are at war with parents and children over education in the US. There will be significant improvement in educational progress until teachers' unions are compelled to surrender. Just as a body cannot begin to heal itself until the ingestion of poison is stopped, so schools can make no lasting recovery until unions are eradicated." COMMENT TWO: "Public education unions MUST GO to save true education!" (Comment Three will follow below--the best comment on the future!)
Ryen March 03, 2012 at 06:44 AM
(continued from above comment) Comment Three from the WSJ: "The school choice and alternative school experts have it right in the OpEd piece. Kids and parents are moving to alternative choices increasingly (school choice, charter schools, privatized schools, private schools, bankrupt public districts, homeschooling, and online options are quickly developing, etc.)....adthese choices are also moving beyond the reach of these teacher union and bureacracy deadweight problems quickly, viz., at a rate of about 30% per year over the past decade. In another decade or so, it will probably all be done....successful public education will be the extinct dinosaur it bloated up to become over decades.....[and] a few of the best teachers will be explaining things online (or through other technological breakthroughs and successes), and a lot of the best educators (who prepare online resources, tests, evaluations, reviews, not lectures) are already involved in this enterprise. Don't worry, be happy! Change is happening and quickly." So, maybe looking at it that way, bloated and ever increasing budgets and benefits will ultimately solve this problem for us--destined to fail under its own weight. A shame.
Ryen March 03, 2012 at 06:48 AM
And further, by far the most important point by the panel discussion--and I quote: "But some might say unions and the 'system' are one and the same. Proxies of teachers unions dominate school boards since unions are usually the only groups that organize in school-board elections. School administrators belong to a union within the AFL-CIO, just like the American Federation of Teachers. And the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) help run the accrediting body that dictates policy at university schools of education. The school system, in other words, is vertically and horizontally integrated by the unions. This is an often hidden component of the public education problem. The structure within which public schools operate, all the way through state and federal departments of education, has been built and is controlled by people who have all come up through the same system. The result is lockstep 'groupthink', which produces subpar outcomes for astronomical amounts of money. The barriers to entry are substantial, which is why those with stellar academic credentials and career histories from outside the bureaucratic educational establishment can't get a foot in the door in either public school teaching or administration. The results of this insularity speak for themselves....Doomsday in public education approaches."
Ray DiStephan March 03, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I find it fascinating that there is all this talk about economic hardship and the out-of-control BOE budget (which has averaged 1.8% over the past few years - FACT) and how we can't continue to afford these increases in the BOE budget, etc. Yet, for the second year in-a-row, the BOE budget % increase is LOWER than the town side of the budget % increase. And still we don't hear a peep about the town budget. So can we afford the increases or not? If not (which the evidence does not suggest), then why no criticism of the GREATER spending increase on the Town side? There is no other conclusion to draw other than these people want to see the SCHOOL budget cut (the school budget is 2.85% - below the overall 3.3% for the entire budget)... not the entire budget. Meanwhile, many residents will see a tax DECREASE this year due to revaluation.
Rob Gianazza March 03, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Please research before you make statements. Jerry Friedrich's children had all graduated before his terms of service. Ron Jaffe's children graduated and he continues to serve the community on the Board of Finance with Jerry Friedrich. I retired from the BOE after eight years of service. Other retired BOE members have either moved away from Brookfield, or have continued to participate in local government in other areas. I forgot, what exactly is your point?
Steven DeVaux March 03, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Matching the state support for education in Brookfield is not an unreasonable position in my mind. Heck I would even support a 200% increase to the state's increase in support, The state says Brookfield should do it with a $5 per student increase. The BoF should offer a $10 per student increase. That reflects Brookfield's community as valuing education TWICE AS MUCH as the state does given the current ecomony. Very generous. Sounds like out State Representative is the one being a cheapskate.
Steven DeVaux March 03, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Did ou know that including services-in-kind, building costs and direct appropriation of tax monies that private schools, that offer a better education and entrance into good schools is now cheaper than the cost of educating a child in the Brookfield Public Schools? It would actually pay to outsource or voucher and offer parents who want the very best for their kids the opportunity to do so without making them pay TWICE.
Rob Gianazza March 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Mr. DiStephan, two questions. First, when full day kindergarten was sold to the BOE, wasn't it supposed to be headcount independent since we already had the staffing and were just extending two of the partial days to full days for each half of the grade? Second, if the home value is decreased, isn't the mill rate increased? That indicates a net wash, not a net reduction. I think the Town needs to make the math a little more clear.
Steven DeVaux March 03, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Two excellent observations Rob.
long time resident March 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Ron when did your last child graduate? 2011? Wasn't he a band guy?
long time resident March 03, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Jaffe's children graduated the last year he was on the BOE. I don't remember posting anything about the BOF?
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Hi Rob, To answer your last question first, I do not know or understand a lot about this, but the people who do have said as much and this is from the article above: "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." My understanding is that this was driven by the fact that commercial properties did not "devalue" in Brookfield as much as most homes. That is the reason for the tax difference. That is what I was told. Do you know otherwise? As to the full day question, the answer is a 100% definitive "no" to your question. I specifically brought up the need to reduce class size in kindergarten if we went to full day. Furthermore, there were lengthy discussions about that fact and we even discussed how the roughly $30K in savings from the mid-day bus run would pay for a good part of an additional teacher. You were part of these discussions (although you may not have agreed - I don't remember - but you were there). The consensus of that Board and the new Board is that we need to get Kindergarten class size down to target and we have made that a high priority.
Ryen March 04, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Mr. DiStephan: First problem: We are not talking about "the past few years"--we are talking about all the years that there were 3.5% to 5% or more increases. It is also disingenuous of a civil figure to "claim credit" for a 1.8% AVERAGE increase over a few years when DISGUSTED citizens FORCED the budgets down that low--they were NOT presented with 1.8% increases. Sad to try to claim that as a badge of honor after the fact. If you had the sense to be reasonable up front, maybe you would not be in the boat you are in.... Second problem: Is the BOE budget TWICE the size of the town side of the budget? Again, that means that dollar-for-dollar, an EQUAL percentage increase in the BOE side means TWICE the tax dollars in reality. So, there IS a difference in the two sides. our schools get TWICE AS MUCH MONEY as the entire TOWN does! (continued below)
Ryen March 04, 2012 at 02:00 PM
(continued from BELOW reply comment) Third problem: Who ever said people were happy with the town side? You make a faulty assumption--when people are discussing the schools, why bring up the town side and make a false accusation or false statement about people's motives! Fourth problem: The very fact that you try to impugn people's motives and change the subject is disturbing. Continue to try to perpetrate the BLATANT LIE that people who do not want BOE increases (in thereality of the worst economy since the Great Depression) are somehow "against education"! That is a typical BROAD BRUSH and BLACK BRUSH attack by people who do not want anyone looking to closely at what is actually happening in the schools--but just want the EASY FIX of more money for a system that is held hostage by teacher's unions and history. I am FOR education, believe you me. I am NOT for simply throwing more money at a greedy and bloated union and bureaucracy that has historically been unaccountable and lived on excessive increases. Instead of impugning motives, talk about the history and the facts accurately, to begin with and do not try to change the subject, please.
Ryen March 04, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Most residents (and most of the COUNTRY, thank you) want ALL budgets and ALL taxes cut and frozen--not just the education budgets. Stop fostering lies, please. And stop the "broad brush" approach to critics. That is shameful. Your attitude betrays part of the problem with a "cocky" BOE and school system. Sad that you have no facts, and when people bring up the spotty history, the bad decisions, the lack of monitoring and accountability in school projects, and the union--you have nothing to do with those sore spots.
Ryen March 04, 2012 at 02:11 PM
WOW! $38 ?!!! You mean my $7000 tax bill will get a HALF OF ONE PERCENTAGE POINT decrease!!!!!!!?????? YIPPPEEE! Wow--maybe that will buy my kid one sneaker next year--I will have to pay for the other sneaker out of my pocket change I just happen to have lying around. And my other kids will get, well...ooops, my decrease is gone.... How in the world would two half days of kindergarten result in a ONE MILLION dollar increase in the education budget? In fact--why not speak that way--in this economic climate, why in the world do the schools need ONE MILLION or more new dollars this year over last year? One MILLION dollars? And then another MILLION and a HALF more dollars the next year? What do we get for that? Specific facts please.
Ryen March 04, 2012 at 02:18 PM
You accuse good citizens in this town of "only wanting to cut the budgets"? That is shameful in itself. budgets should be FROZEN right now across the board. The only worthy project is the APPROPRIATE PLAN for development of the Four Corners (new Town Center). But, back to the point: I accuse you, Mr. D, of the very same thing then: I REALLY think that you ONLY WANT TO INCREASE the BOE budget every year--that is all you speak to. That is ashame. Where does the MILLION dollars or 1.5 MILLION dollars go? No fancy footwork or gibberish about administration overhead and all that baloney, either, please. We now pay APPROXIMATELY $20,000 a year on EACH student--or we are quickly approaching that--certainly $16,000 a year. I know private schools that cost that much! Why do we need to INCREASE that figure by almost $700 PER STUDENT in town next year????? Specifics, please.
Rob Gianazza March 04, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Appreciate the response Ray, but I need to disagree. The Board decided after acceptance of full day kindergarten to add additional staffing. It was part of the discussion, but the original proposal boasted that staffing would remain neutral. It was part of community buy-in that additional staffing became part of the discussion. As for the re-valuation and mill rate, it's really semantics. Yes the total tax burden is being shifted away from the home owner who's home lost 20% of its' value, but the fact remains that the mill rate will be adjusted to compensate for that loss in revenue. A little slight of hand magician's trick perhaps. While we're on the topic of the budget, I'm sure that the District has not expended all that was budgeted for heating expenses due to the uncharacteristically mild winter we've experienced. Where will that money be re-directed? Thanks again for being open to communicating with the community through this forum, I am sure that it is appreciated by many.
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I make it a point of not responding to posters who are only interested in spewing anger, misinformation, and attacks on the people who volunteer their time to serve the town. Leave it to say that there is a lot of misinformation in many of these posts, along with attacks (calling me and other volunteers liars, etc), I will only say that we have very different versions of the facts and we will not agree.
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Rob, when the Board approved full day, there was definite consensus that we would look to lower the class sizes back to 18 where they were one year ago, prior to this year. What the administration proposed is not in question. What the Board approved and agreed to make a high priority is. I will leave the mill rate piece to the BoS and BoF members, as that is more of their domain. However, what was presented to me and all of us in this article is that the average home owners will see a decrease. That was my only claim and it is true if we are to believe what was reported in this story. As to fuel savings, etc, as you know, the B&F sub-committee will meet this spring and we will see where those numbers actually come in.
Rob Gianazza March 04, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Thanks for the follow-up Ray.
long time resident March 04, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Ryen, you have to understand that Ray works in the school system in New York, therefore he is going to spin everything toward schools and their inability to operate on a $36M budget. His job is protected by the unions. We must have a big disciplinary problem in the schools where we need 2 vice principals and they have no problem taking on salary raises while the working stiffs (the teachers) are asked to not take any increase. It must be nice that out of the top 10 administrators, only 2 live in Brookfield.
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 05:13 PM
In Brookfield and in Connecticut, I am a home owner, a parent and a tax payer. I get no benefit from any of this that differs from any other home owner, parent and/or tax payer in this town or this state. Perhaps we can stick to the issues rather than focus on me. This budget has been approved by a 7 member BOE and a 3 member BOS and goes far beyond any individual. In fact, if one was really paying attention, you would no that I voted against the BOE proposal, as I wanted a slightly lower proposal. However, once it was approved, I became fully committed to the budget that has been adopted by the BOE.
long time resident March 04, 2012 at 05:31 PM
That is fair Ray.
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I wrote "no" instead of "know". Oops.
long time resident March 04, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Ray, the only reason why you are singles out, and I do apologize, is because you are Chairman of the BOE, so residents are always more critical of the 'boss.' Plus the fact that you and Ron (when he was part of the BOE) had the fortitude to get on the comment board and try to answer the posts. Too bad the other Board members don't have the ability to answer their constituents.
Ray DiStephan March 04, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I appreciate those comments and I accept the deal that comes with being chair. I also appreciate that these are issues that people care about and are affected by.

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