BERLIN — After two referendums and months of negotiations, the Town Council adopted a budget after making additional cuts Monday night.
The final budget allocates $43.6 million to the Board of Education and $44.3 million in general government funding, requiring a mill rate of 32.5. The council’s four Republican members moved to make $500,000 in cuts, ignoring objections of two Democrats — a third, Peter Rosso, was absent.
"My opinion is that we need to listen to the voters and (spending) needs to come down a little bit,” said Councilor Alex Giannone. “And again I think we can responsibly reduce it by a little bit more, and I mean a little bit.”
The mill rate represents a .89-mill increase over the current year, although the impact on individual home owners will vary because the town recently completed a revaluation of property. Residents rejected a budget during a May 22 referendum that would have necessitated a 0.95-mll increase.
The cuts made were a $300,000 reduction in school funding, another $125,000 for upgrades to phone systems at Berlin High School and the elementary schools, $39,000 for police cruiser and $37,000 for a school van.
“It’s pretty devastating, I think, to our students. I think it was irresponsible,” said Democratic Councilor JoAnn Angelico-Stetson.
“I’m terrified of (Effective School Solutions) getting axed,” she said, referring to a high school program which supports students struggling with mental health issues. “That’s a program that saves kids’ lives.”
Angelico-Stetson also said Mayor Mark Kaczynski and Republican councilors had moved unilaterally, excluding Democrats and the entire Board of Finance from their deliberations.
The council and finance board disagreed about how to use $650,000 in unanticipated Education Cost Sharing grant funding from the state, with the finance board preferring to not include the money in the budget over concerns the state could cut it mid year. The council initially wanted to use $300,000 to reduce the need for a tax increase.
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