By Ed Harris
The Board of Finance has passed a proposed $129.3 million dollar budget that scales back money for the Board of Education and slightly lowers the mill rate.
The board unanimously passed a recommendation of $45.1 million on the town side and $84.2 million for the Board of Education. The proposal will now go to the Town Council for a public hearing and further review.
The school board’s allotment is $1.1 million less than it had requested, an issue that frustrated Southington School Supt. Dr. Joseph Erardi. Erardi told the BOF that he wondered what it would take for the board to fully fund a Board of Education budget. He said the school administration and the Board of Education work tirelessly on the proposal and only include the items that they feel are necessary.
“I stand here unhappy,” Erardi told the Board of Finance, shortly after it made its final decision. “Every cent was accountable.”
The Board of Finance has gone back and forth on how much it wanted to cut the BOE budget during its recent workshops. The Republicans and Democrats on the board each had different opinions on how much to cut.
“It was unanimous among the board that we wanted to make cuts to the Board of Education budget,” said Board of Finance member Wayne Stanforth. “The question was by how much.”
Board of Finance member Tony Casale wanted to ensure that the public knew that the finance board did not cut the school board’s full-day kindergarten proposal from the budget, though the numbers are similar. He said he had received numerous emails on the matter.
“The numbers are similar,” he noted. “We did not cut any programs.”
Under state law, the Board of Finance has no control over line items in the Board of Education budget. The Board of Finance can only propose an overall number and it is up to the Board of Education to determine how that money is spent.
The Board of Finance’s $129.3 million proposal would drop the mill rate slightly, by about .02 mills. This means that a house appraised at $250,000 would pay about $4 less in taxes, if the proposed budget were to pass.
“It is a very slight reduction, but a reduction nonetheless,” said Board of Finance member Joseph Labieniec.
Labieniec briefly outlined why the mill rate was dropping, even though there would be more spending under the board’s proposal. He cited an increase in the Grand List, an increase in non-tax revenues and cuts made to both budget proposals as some of the reasons.