Residents attending a public hearing mostly asked the Town Council for further cuts to its budget proposal, which currently calls for a 3-percent spending increase.
Karen Maciorowski said during the Tuesday, April 9 hearing that she believes there’s still more the council could cut from the budget, but she is worried about the level of capital spending left after the council’s reductions.
“We have 22.7 million (dollars) in capital projects coming over the next six years, and while the budget was great, that it tells us exactly what we’re replacing and why we needed to replace it,” Maciorowski said she’d prefer to see cuts come from the education budget. The town is “going to be in trouble” if the reductions are made to the capital budget, she said.
The council proposed a $61.9 million budget, last month, a spending plan that would raise the mill rate by 0.88 mills to 34.72 mills, meaning a $121 tax increase for the average home assessed at $137,227.
The council cut $357,000 from the town manager’s $62.2-million budget request, which would have meant a $169 tax increase.
A budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30 at the fire department headquarters.
At the public hearing, resident John Kisluk proposed cutting spending by another $140,000 and taking a larger amount of the town’s fund balance to ease the need for a tax increase.
“I was trying to bring this budget increase under $1 million,” he said. “I think you can still reduce this budget and give us a little bit of an increase, because it’s still going to be an increase.”
Town Council Chairperson Katherine Pugliese said using the fund balance to offset a tax increase wouldn’t be sustainable in subsequent years.
"I personally would like to see less of an increase, I truly wish there was a way we could make that happen,” she said. “But after we've looked at everything, we have actually done some creative thinking about this budget in terms of taking care of some expenditures in ways we haven't done before.”
While most of the cuts came from the Board of Education’s budget, which the council decreased by $221,000 to $38.3 million, many of the comments from residents at the April 9 hearing focused on rising educational costs.
Joann Edman questioned the district’s spending on tutors, which would rise nearly 2 percent to $1.1 million under the proposed budget.
“Can somebody here tonight tell me why we need a big expenditure like over $1 million for tutors?” Edman asked.
Superintendent of Schools Maureen Brummett said the district hires tutors to assist students in literacy and math, special education, English as a second language, and behavior technicians, the latter of which are largely driving the increase.
Brummett added that if the budget is rejected, she believes staffing reductions will be required.
“We’ve cut everything back,” she said. “… If it gets cut further, we’re going to have to make cuts to staff.”