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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.

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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