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Minutes of Board of Finance Public Hearing on Proposed 2019-20 Annual Budget, 03/14/2019

AGENDA: Board of Finance Public Hearing on Proposed 2019-20 Annual Budget

RECEIVED 03/20/2019 8:45am
Kathleen R. Miserendino - Redding Deputy Town Clerk

BOARD OF FINANCE
PUBLIC HEARING
THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2019
7:30PM
COMMUNITY CENTER MEETING ROOM

Filed Subject to Approval

PRESENT:  Dr. Kim Yonkers, Chair; Ward Mazzucco; Rob Dean; Susan Clark; Jamie Barickman; Ed Miller (arrived at 7:36PM)

ALSO PRESENT:  Dr. Melinda Irwin, BOE Chair; Mike D’Agostino, Region 9 Chair; Dr. Tom McMorran, Superintendent; BOE Members; Region 9 Members; Michael Thompson, Selectman; Peg O’Donnell, Selectwoman; First Selectwoman Pemberton; Steve Gniadek, Finance Director

Chair Yonkers called the meeting to order at 7:35PM.

1.      CALL TO ORDER
Chair Yonkers will entertain a motion to change the order of presentations to the BOE first, Region 9 second, and BOS last.
Chair Yonkers will also entertain a motion to include public comment after every presentation.

MOTION:  Mr. Mazzucco made a motion to change the order of budget presentations to be BOE, Region 9, and then BOS budgets, and to include public comment after every presentation. Ms. Clark seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.

2.      BUDGET PRESENTATIONS (PUBLIC COMMENT AFTER EACH)

Board of Education Presentation:

Chair Irwin presented the budget for the Redding Board of Education.

–          Enrollment at RES and JRMS has bottomed out and will slowly rise over the next couple of years. She said there is a difference between RES and JRMS with enrollment.

–          Comparing this proposed budget versus the budget five years ago, there is a slight increase in the budget.

–          Students performed well on the SBAC tests. A new permanent Special Services Director has been hired and a new bus contract has been signed.

–          An increase to the MERS pension increased the budget. The Teacher’s Pension may shift to a town burden, costing approximately $124,000 in this budget.

–          There is an approximately $800,000 increase to Special Education.

–          The new bus contract, early retirements, and a new teacher’s contract help to lower costs.

–          There are possible opportunities to negotiate Non-Certified Staff and Custodians contracts, as well as regionalization of Special Services. These options could lower costs.

–          The main drivers of the budget are Special Education, Health Insurance, and Pension Contributions. The budget increases from these three drivers exceeds $1,000,000.

–          No new programs are being proposed. Some professional development, curriculum writing, and most extracurricular activities have been restored.

–          RES enrichment, certain extracurricular activities, and supplies have not been restored from the FY 2019 budget. Two teaching positions (Music and Gym) remain part-time, and some curriculum development was also not restored.

–          The cuts for this year’s budget include a Spanish Teacher at JRMS and two classroom teachers at JRMS. Redding’s competitive advantage may be affected by these cuts.

–          The State Budget, Union Contracts, and Health Insurance are still being finalized.

–          As of Thursday, 3/14/2019, $112,076 has not been fully accounted for. This money could be used to offset a cut.

Chair Irwin ended her presentation.

Chair Yonkers stated that each question for public comment is limited to two minutes. She said that the BOF will ask questions before public comment.

Mr. Barickman asked Chair Irwin to clarify what the restored funding is equal to. Chair Irwin said that the restored cuts equal approximately $60,000. Chair Irwin said the cuts that weren’t restored equaled approximately $200,000. Mr. Barickman asked how much the new cuts equal. Chair Irwin said the new cuts equal $300,000.

Mr. Barickman asked Chair Irwin about her statutory responsibility to maintain excellence in the schools. He said he is concerned that this budget will not maintain the level of excellence Redding residents expect from the schools. Chair Irwin said this budget considers every taxpayer. One of the members of the BOE said that this budget was created with last years’ experience in mind. A member of the BOE said that this budget is mitigating potential future harm.

Mr. Dean asked the BOE if they are looking at similar towns and how they are dealing with their school budgets. Chair Irwin said the BOE does look to what their neighbors do.

Ms. Clark asked the BOE if a structural change has been discussed. She suggested merging administration at RES and JRMS by having one head administrator instead of two. Chair Irwin said this has been discussed but it is unrealistic.

Mr. Miller asked the BOE if there has been discussion about using the BOS budget to fund some of the services in the schools. First Selectwoman Pemberton said a shared Facilities Director position for the town and schools has been considered.

Chair Yonkers said keeping the budget system separated has its advantages and that changes to this process should be justified. She stated that there has been a historic separation between the town budget and the schools budget, and this should be maintained.

Mr. Miller said this is a zero-sum game and that the BOF should consider these budgets as part of a whole instead of separate entities.

Chair Yonkers invited members of the public to speak.

Public Comment:
Jean Ammermiller, Redding Road asked what the class sizes are at RES. Chair Irwin said that in Kindergarten, the class size is 18, but in Fourth Grade, there are 23 students per class. Members of the BOE said that the overall class size will be larger this year than an average year.

Jean Ammermiller, Redding Road, asked about Special Education costs and how to reduce them. Chair Irwin said that the Special Education costs represent what the schools need to do in order to serve their students appropriately.

Lisa Reilly, Drummer Lane, invited her daughters up to for public comment.

Asun Reilly, Drummer Lane, said she wants to learn French but won’t be able to do this if it is cut from the budget.

Shavon Reilly, Drummer Lane, said she likes Spanish and health food. She said she does not want languages cut from RES.

Steven Wittle, Little Brook Lane, asked the BOE about their mission statement presented in the budget presentation. He said that the BOE needs to put forward a budget they believe in, not something that will pass.

Sarah O’Dell, Black Rock Turnpike, said that the BOE should fully fund the schools.

Chris Racette, Drummer Lane, said the budget is embarrassing and that it fails students. He also said that he thinks certain leaders have pushed the budget to where it is now. He asked the BOE to support students.

Mike Lyons, Orchard Drive, said that comparing towns is not the best way to gauge the quality of education. He said that the costs are slightly higher in Redding, but not by much.

Chair Yonkers suggested that Mr. Lyons post his research on Hello Redding.

Mary ?, Long Ridge Road, said that the BOE has presented a budget that appeases the BOF.

Martine King, Rock House Road, said that she wants her children to be competitive in a global market. She said she is contemplating sending her children to the district she works in because they have programs that Redding is losing.

Jim Lange, Black Rock Turnpike, said that there is not enough discussion around streamlining the education system. He said the BOE should look at the silos and streamline the bureaucracy.

Seana Bedard, Winding Brook Lane, said that home sales have been increasing in Redding.

Brenda Phelps, Indian Hill Road, said that her 8-year-old has more enrichment than her 5-year-old. She said that open space is great, but the residents of Redding want excellent schools.

Trisha Doyle, 12 Church Hill Lane, asked the boards to re-do the schools budget.

Mike Farris, 26 Ledgewood Road, said he moved his daughter to Redding for the schools. Mr. Farris said the BOE has put a budget out that they don’t agree with it and that doesn’t serve students.

Brian Rose, Drummer Lane, said he moved to Redding partially for the school district. He said that the BOE needs to go back to the drawing board with the budget.

Kristen Anstead, 60 Whortleberry Road, said she moved into Redding for the schools. She said the Gifted and Talented program is so important to her, she will leave Redding if it cannot be supported in the budget. She said the BOE should re-work the budget.

Lisa Fenzel, Long Wall Road, thanked the boards for their service. She said the boards should reexamine the mission of the schools and how it can shift towards a long-term, global vision. She said there are many solutions available.

Eric Baker, Black Rock Turnpike, said he supports the budget the BOE presented. He said that the budget needs to increase at least 3% to meet the needs of students.

Ed Humphrey, Thankful Bradley Road, said there is a lot of frustration expressed by the residents. He said there is fat in the Central Office and administration budgets. He asked the BOE to discuss this.

Chair Yonkers made a request to the public to be respectful to board members outside of these hearings and meetings.

Chair Irwin said there is no excess in the Central Office budget.

Region 9 Budget

Chair D’Agostino presented the Region 9 Budget.

–          There is a net increase of 37 students for FY 2020. Redding will pay for this increase.

–          Redding’s share of the budget will increase by 3.77% for this year. Redding’s share will decrease over the next 2 years.

–          Joel Barlow High School is one of the top ranked high schools in the state.

–          The various maintenance projects included in the Barlow Campus Improvements Request were discussed. The projected cost of all of these projects is $1,916,780 (Easton’s share 42.39%, Redding’s share 57.61%).

Chair D’Agostino ended his presentation.

Mr. Miller asked Chair D’Agostino if it would be allowed under state law to norm enrollment swings with a reserve fund.

Mr. Barickman thanked Chair D’Agostino for the long-term perspective on the budget.

Chair Irwin stated that she wants to maintain or improve the rankings the schools currently have.

Mr. Barickman asked Chair Irwin and Chair D’Agostino if the budgets proposed maintain the quality of the schools or if there is a loss. Chair Irwin said there is a loss of programming for RES and JRMS. Chair D’Agostino said everything is maintained for the Region 9 budget.

Public Comment:
No members of the public commented on the Region 9 budget.

Board of Selectmen Budget:

First Selectwoman Pemberton presented the Board of Selectmen Budget.

–          The grand list increased by 0.21%, and state aid is projected to stay at the same level. Revenues and interest income have increased.

–          The Debt Service fund, contractual salary increases, salary increases for town employees, CMERS pension increase, TAR money for tree trimming, and Co-Fund Revitalize Redding are all expenditures for FY 2020.

–          Highlighted budget increases over $10K include: CMERS, bond principal, economic development, medical insurance, highway contractual salaries, electricity, Mark Twain library, gas and diesel, social security, Police Department part time work, and the Senior Center.

–          Highlighted budget reductions over $10K include: bond interest, Legal budget, leased vehicles, Finance salaries, Police Department Department Head salary, Grand List revaluation, Planning consultant, Conservation/Open-Space, and Planning part time.

–          There is an overall increase to the budget of 1.98%.

–          State Aid was discussed.

–          Leased equipment was discussed.

–          Capital projects were discussed. The Station Road Bridge Reconstruction is almost finished. The PD Radio Upgrade and the Fire District Communication Infrastructure projects are being done together to save money.

–          Savings attained since 2015 were discussed.

–          There was discussion on where each tax dollar goes and what the BOS budget supports.

–          Home sales in Redding were discussed. Social media is being used to advertise the Town. Research demonstrating where new residents are moving from was discussed.

–          The PD Radio Upgrade and the Fire District Communication Infrastructure projects were elaborated on.

First Selectwoman Pemberton ended her presentation.

Mr. Barickman asked how First Selectwoman Pemberton arrived at a 1.98% increase for the BOS budget. Discussion followed.

Chair Yonkers asked First Selectwoman Pemberton about how towns promote themselves. First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed the actions towns like Ridgefield and Wilton have taken to promote themselves.

Public Comment:

Carolyn Baker, Indian Hill Road, said that marketing project should not be funded.

Seana Bedard, Winding Brook Lane, said that the town of Redding is already outpacing other towns with home sales.

Lisa Fenzel, Long Wall Road, said that the boards should work together to find solutions to the challenges the town faces.

Katherine Becker, Great Meadow Road, said there is a great talent in Redding and we should use them to market Redding.

Chris Wistread, ?, said that the Friends of Redding are new and don’t really know what they’re doing. He suggested letting this idea move on its own before it gets paid for. He asked how the Radio’s would be paid for. He asked about consolidation with the schools. He hoped for more regionalization.

Dana Grey, Lamppost Drive, said that there should be a facilities manager for the town. It is a proactive move.

Brenda Phelps, Indian Hill Road, asked about the buildings in Georgetown and if the town is doing anything to help that produce more business. First Selectwoman Pemberton mentioned streetscape. Mr. Dean said zoning, parking, and sewer capacity need to be worked on in order to accommodate more business.

Amy Arnold, Wharf Drive, asked about the contingency item in the budget.

Ed Humphrey, Thankful Bradley Road, asked about the marketing proposal and if it would increase the tax base of Redding.

3.      OTHER BUSINESS

There was no other business addressed at this meeting.

Chair Yonkers adjourned the meeting at 10:43PM.

Submitted by,
Zachary Smith

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