In a evening largely bereft of dramatics or last-minute pleas, the approved a budget of $96.5 million Tuesday, cutting $100,000 from the Board of Education budget and, with a reduction of roughly $15,000, leaving the town budget as recommended by the virtually flat.
Director of Finance James Finch estimated that the mill rate for fiscal year 2012-13 would rise to 24.95 from the current mill rate of 24.27.
Following the $100,000 cut from the operating side of the BOE budget, BOE Chair Frank Carrano rose to ask the RTM if the reduction, which passed unanimously, could be split equally between the BOE’s operating budget, which, as approved, sits at $50.3 million, and the BOE capital budget, which, with a total of $438,200, the RTM did not cut.
In his brief remarks, Carrano, who was seated with Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez at his side, noted that the BOE operating budget was “built on a desire to move some important issues forward.” He mentioned the BOE’s desire to expand its pre-kindergarten program and also its desire to proceed with a world languages program.
“A cut of $100,000 is going to force the board to look vey carefully at some innovative programs, such as pre-kindergarten at l,” Carrano said. “It’s $100,000 on top of $300,000” — this, a reference to an earlier cut in the BOE budget by the Board of Finance — “that’s going to have some consequences.”
“There’s very little in the budget that we can reduce,” he said.
Carrano also noted that the schools had learned since the BOE put forth its recommended budget that the town would be reimbursed an additional $65,000 in educational cost-sharing monies from the state.
And Representative James Walker noted that teachers’ salaries will remain flat this year in the first year of the teachers' three-year contract. He said it was the first year where teachers have agreed to a freeze.
As a member of the Rules and Ordinances Committee, Representative Richard Greenalch Jr. recommended that the BOE take its suggestion of splitting the RTM’s cut to the BOF, which, he argued, was the town body best suited to implementing Mr. Carrano’s proposal.
“Doesn’t the BOF do transfers all the time?” he asked. “That’s all this is.”
On the town side, the saw $45,000 restored to its budget to tend the town’s 105 miles of roads — a change for which rose from his chair to offer the RTM his thanks.
The First Selectman said that “what you save on the front end you lose far more on the back end.”
“At what point do you declare it a crisis?” said DaRos of the condition of some of the town’s roads.
He also thanked the RTM for restoring a salary increase to non-union town employees. In the municipal budget of $45.8 million that the RTM adopted, the non-union town employees will gain a 2.5% salary increase — this, as opposed to the 2% increase the BOF had recommended.
The First Selectman also commended the RTM for this action, noting that last year some of those employees had worked without so much as going to their homes for seven days straight.
Town departments whose budgets were trimmed also included legal services, which the RTM cut by $20,000, and Human Resources and Elderly Services.
Before the restoration of funds to the one activity of the DPW, Greenalch had made what he termed a “rational appeal for taxpayers.”
He noted that “this isn’t business like it used to be, in the 1990’s or 2000.” The representative said he had received a number of calls from residents, among them one who has had no increase in salary since 2007 and who works without health benefits.
Still, the small shifts in the town budget lines proceeded along largely partisan votes, with the votes for the town budget the RTM adopted overwhelmingly on the Democratic side.