BERLIN — The Town Council and Board of Education held a final public hearing Wednesday night ahead of next Tuesday’s budget vote.
“It’s been a difficult budget year,” said Mayor Mark Kaczynski.
The council recently sent the $85.3 million town budget to referendum. $500,000 was added to the school budget for a 2.7 percent budget increase.
The town has a negative .37 percent increase.
“We’ve squeezed every last cent out of the town side,” Kaczynski said.
The total budget represents a 2.8 percent increase in taxes, a .87 mill increase. A house valued at $250,000, for example, would pay an additional $150 in property taxes.
The additional funds for the school budget were reconfigured from other accounts with two town items cut. Projects for Scalise Field and the high school track resurfacing were removed.
“Running a school system is an ever changing system,” said Matthew Tencza, board president.
The board recently discussed eliminating 11 school positions to make up a reduction of $900,000. An increase of 4.7 percent was previously requested by the board.
The council reduced the increase to 1.7 percent, before adding $500,000 back into the budget.
Tencza said several grants had run out and funds were needed to cover the loss.
Resident John Markowski suggested the board reach out to technology companies for more grant opportunities.
“There’s programs that piggyback other things,” he said.
Superintendent David Erwin said several avenues have been looked at and that budget discussions would start earlier next year.
Councilor Rachel Rochette said changes next year needed to be considered like the election of a Board of Finance per the revised town charter.
“There is going to be a learning curve,” she said.
Erwin said discussions with the finance board and council could begin as early as August.
In total, over $5 million was reduced on the town side by the Temporary Town Manager.
“Nobody is happy to eliminate anything,” Kaczynski said.
He said there will be another chance for the council to look over the budget depending on how the vote goes.
Residents can vote for the budget Tuesday, April 25, 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. with all regular polling places open.
More information can be found at http://www.town.berlin.ct.us/