Residents expressed mixed feelings about the school and municipal budget proposals being considered by the Town Council at a public hearing on Thursday, March 7.
Together, the municipal and school budget proposals came in a $62.2 million, which constitutes a nearly $2.2 million increase in town spending, or slightly over 3.6 percent.
Speaking at the public hearing, Peter Chrzanowski, a Plainville resident who teaches in another district, said teachers and the students they serve shouldn’t be shortchanged.
"When you start stripping down even further, a lot of areas are affected,” Chrzanowski said. “Whether it's special ed. services for students or teachers' professional development or field trips that are really hands-on.”
He also cautioned against not funding regular maintenance of school buildings and equipment, since mid-year repairs can disrupt teaching and be more costly than staying ahead of them.
Resident Patrick Kilby urged the council to preserve funding for the Board of Education and police department while finding other areas to cut.
"We are in a fiscal mess if you look at our state's picture and it's trickling down more than ever to our local budget,” Kilby said. “Try to cut as much as you can, but still maintain and preserve the quality of services to our residents in town. I know you guys do an excellent job as you go through your budget sessions on cutting the unnecessary expenses that are incurred on the actual taxpayers here in town.”
Joel Edman said he believes if the council doesn’t reduce the budget it won’t win the support of retired residents, like himself, when it goes to the voters on Tuesday, April 23.
"As a retired person living on limited income … with the increases in the budget every year, it's difficult," Edman said. "I have a feeling that the retired people, if they get out and vote, they're going to try and say ‘no’ because it's way too much.”
Resident David Spencer noted that local voters will likely have to contend with an increase in taxes at the state level, which he sees as contributing to an environment which is driving people out of the state.
"Plainville is not a closed system … We're all part of the state and what happens in Hartford affects us. Any increase here is not all the increase the taxpayers have to pay. We have to help foot the bill for whatever Hartford demands of us," Spencer said.
Even if increases are relatively small, Spencer said they can add up over time, particularly if they become the baseline for future spending levels. “[W]e're tapped out as taxpayers,” he said. “I'm sick of watching my friends move to South Carolina and Tennessee and Texas.”
Town Council Chairperson Katherine Pugliese said the council will be scrutinizing spending during budget workshops.
“The people that spoke tonight are right about a lot of those things about the impact on voters,” Pugliese said, singling out concerns over the looming impact of the state budget. “We are being asked to correct the mistakes made in Hartford, and I don’t think it’s fair.”
The council held a budget workshop on Monday, and others are scheduled this month.
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