Jay, I just wanted to give you a quick rundown of what I recall from tonight’s Board of Finance Meeting.
Gail Alexander (D) made a motion to add $1 million back to the BOE budget. Frank Wargo (D) seconded. As you are aware, the Board of Ed was originally requesting a $1.8 million increase. The Town Council voted to reduce their budget by $1.8 million leaving them at a 0% increase. Therefore, the motion by the BOF was to add $1 million back into the BOE budget so they would have a $1 million increase from the prior year instead of the $1.8 million they originally requested.
Larry Tripp (R) commented first. He believed that the budget proposed by Mayor Murphy was a good budget. He said that we need to cut back now and almost all taxpayers are not getting increases in salary right now. He said the teachers live a privileged life as it relates to their salaries, however, they have the hardest job in the Community. He thinks the administrators should give up their raises and the teachers should give up a portion of their raises.
Frank Wargo (D) commented next. He said he is voting based on the recommendation of the Mayor. He says the BOE errs on the side of caution when it budgets their utilities. He looked over to Wendy Faulenbach (R), Board of Ed (BOE) chair, and commented that any energy line item that ends up being a surplus needs to be returned to the Town like it used to 20 years ago. The excess should not get transferred within the School budget like it currently does. Ms. Faulenbach nodded her head "yes" in agreement. Mr. Wargo says the BOE is acting disingenuously by not returning the surplus to the Town from the energy line items. He also said they have 17 administrators and the BOE should justify they are really needed and do an analysis to confirm that we cannot get by with fewer administrators.
Gail Alexander (D) commented next. He says he thinks they should put even more money back in. He thinks the Town Council went too far. He said it would be easy if we were living in a vacuum but we need to realize our per pupil spending and salaries are on the lower side of the state average. By not keeping their salaries competitive we risk losing our teachers to other schools and demoralize them. We can’t underspend to the point where we get nothing out of what we are spending our money on any more.
Bob Sherry (R) says he would personally like to see the Town Council work more closely with the BOE. The Town Council needs to do this to get some level of trust to feel that the BOE budget is accurate. Seems to him the Town Council didn’t trust the numbers. He said we do this far too often.
Mark Vendetti (R) says he respects everyone’s comments but there are too many pieces that are not fitting in the puzzle. We have a serious revenue issue that no one is taking into consideration. He sees this motion to add $1 million as fiscally irresponsible. We will end up with a problem in the long term as the tax increases will curb new growth. He believes there are other savings that can be looked at.
Bill Bennett (R) says he has listened to a lot and has the greatest respect for the education system. However, the education system isn’t the only thing that needs money. We have parks that need to be maintained, roads to repair, etc. Having a business in Town is extremely tough with the increased taxes. We need an increase in businesses though to ultimately decrease our taxes via revenue generation. As a business owner in Town, he has had to lay people off and it is not fair to ask for a tax increase. He has tightened his belt and everyone needs to do it.
Joanne Chapin (R), Chair, says that the motion proposes a tax increase of 2.32% for a new mill rate of 23.04. She says she agrees the Town Council budget was harsh. She thought the $1.8 million request was high and there was fat in the BOE budget. She says the State is projecting a 760 million deficit next year, 3 billion year after and 3.2 billion a year after that. She is having a hard time accepting the $1 million add in but reiterates the Town Council cut was too harsh. Asks if there is a compromise and no one answers.
Motion is called. Frank Wargo votes "yes." Gail Alexander votes "yes." Bob Sherry votes "yes." Mark Vendetti votes "no." Larry Tripp votes "yes." At this point the motion has carried 4-1. However, for some reason, the Chairman, Joanne Chapin, then votes "yes" to add the $1 million back into the Board of Ed budget.