Board of Finance
Public Hearing on the Proposed 2017-18 Budget
March 2, 2017
7:30 p.m., Community Center
Present: William Alvarez, Chairman; S. Clark, J. Dolan; W. Mazzucco; K. Yonkers; M. Lewis.
Also present: Julia Pemberton, First Selectman; P. O’Donnell, M. Thompson, Selectmen; S. Gniadek; Members of the Board of Education; members of the public; videographers.
1. Call to Order
The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:33 p.m.
2. Budget Presentations
Board of Selectmen
Julia Pemberton presented the Selectmen’s budget noting a change in bond interest which adds $119,418. The total budget of $14,907,015 was reviewed in detail. Reductions in Municipal Aid due to the State’s financial difficulties are being discussed with the Town’s legal counsel.
The budget as presented is a .34% decrease from the current fiscal year without debt service. Per Gov. Malloy’s budget, the Town will be responsible for $1.7 million in teacher’s pensions. In addition, the ECS grant will receive another drastic decrease. It is undecided whether the BOF will factor in $1.7 million or issue a supplemental bill.
Board of Education
The Board of Education proposed a budget of $21,002,623. The Health Insurance Fund balance was reported at $466,915. State funds for Special Education will be significantly less than current amount due to a change in formula. The BOE was asked to calculate the total shortfall based on the miscalculation and change in formula to determine what the gap will be.
Questions and comments from the Public
Chairman Alvarez clarified that the Senior Tax Benefit is the only benefit to seniors in town.
Keith Bridge asked what the status of the wire mill is. J. Pemberton provided an update re: mediation and foreclosure. Chris Parkin stated that senior get other services and that the tax benefit is not means tested. J. Pemberton reported on Meadow Ridge challenged tax assessment evaluation from 2012 and stated that they are paying taxes.
Laura Hoeing questioned if Boards in Town have written to the Governor or legislature. She stated that Fairfield County pays 50-60% of the State’s tax bill. J. Pemberton stated that she has called the Governor and submitted testimony. She encouraged letters and phone calls from everyone.
Chairman Alvarez noted that the Town has maintained its AAA bond rating despite changes in some other AAA rated Towns.
Karen Callot asked what the Town is doing to make the Town more attractive to young families. D. Pattee stated that it takes 30-35 years after a child has graduated to pay the amount of money it cost to provide the education Redding provides. L. Andrews suggested working with other towns to sue the State. D. Bradford asked how the Senior Tax Benefit is determined. J. Pemberton replied that it is available to senior residents of three or more years and is intended to keep Redding affordable and to slow tax growth. Approximately 700 people benefit. D. Pattee stated that if the tax benefit was removed, residents would need to sell their homes and people with children to educated would move in, thereby increasing taxes.
Karen Defriesse questioned why the Board of Education is being impacted the most. She stated she would rather “get rid of a cop and keep the teacher.”
Chairman Alvarez requested information re: the number of core (full-time Union) teachers in relation to the total number of teachers. W. Mazzucco suggested extending that information to include the peak enrollment year of 2007-08.
Mr. Dolan questioned what the consequence is if the proposal is to get rid of half of a music teacher. He also noted the benefits for his children in the music program. Mike Hoffman, BOE, confirmed that all programs are intact with the proposed budget.
Dr. Yonkers stated that the vast majority of staffing reductions were core teachers, not specialist or paraprofessionals. She stated that the BOF hears the concerns of the public and educators and noted that the Selectmen also requested a budget decrease of 10% from each Town department.
Jeff Fligelman read a letter in support of the education system. S. O’Dell encouraged the Boards to work together to look at all aspects, not just education. M. Lyons read a letter noting that Redding ranks high in the State for per capital income and property wealth but is ranked low in the State for school budget increases. J. Pemberton noted that debt service payments associated with BOE projects are in the BOS budget and have resulted in the BOS budget increase. Without debt service, the BOS budge reflects a .34% decrease.
C. McTague questioned whether we are paying for the right things. Stephanie Ugol stated that Redding is doing less than other town in DRG A.
Jean Curtis asked what the per student cost is and it was noted that presently it is $22,278.
John Reilly noted the lack of potable water at the elementary school. Mark Lewis requested additional information on the water status. It was reported that it was determined that the tank needs to be cleaned more frequently. The water is currently being tested by the State to confirm potability.
Chairman Alvarez requested a copy of details re: health reserves.
On the motion of W. Mazzucco and the second of W. Alvarez, the Board voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting at 9:55 p.m.
Kristi C. Reilly