The Board of Finance Wednesday night approved the proposed 2012 budgets of the Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen, reducing the school budget by $700,000 and the town budget by $227,622. Next, the Legislative Council will deliberate the budgets, and can make additional cuts.
If the budgets were passed as is, taxes would go up by 2.34%.
Approximately $620,000 of the school budget cuts were due to reductions in anticipated costs for diesel fuel, medical benefits and OPED (retiree medical) benefits, as well as cost savings for eliminating four buses by achieving greater efficiencies in bus runs.
“As John Kortze termed it, they found ‘commodity reductions,’” Town Finance Director Robert Tait said. “They don’t affect operations.”
Board of Finance Chair John Kortze and Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlin did not return calls for comment for this article.
“I would rather have seen a couple hundred thousand less in cuts,” said Board of Finance member James Gaston Jr. “They included savings for four buses, and my understanding is that there may only be savings for two.”
Funding for several items that the Board of Education added to its budget this year were left by the Board of Finance. These included full-day kindergarten, wireless internet at the high school, a middle school guidance position and funding for professional development.
“I know full-day kindergarten, they said they’re going to have it no matter what happens, but a $700,000 cut is going to put that on the line,” Gaston said.
On the town side, savings were anticipated in medical benefits and interest on debt service.
At this point, the town side’s budget shows an increase of 0.43%, the school budget 2.04%, and the town’s debt service on bonds stemming from its Capital Improvement Plan will rise 3.57%. Altogether, this is a 1.75% rise in expenditures.
The Legislative Council’s next scheduled meeting Wednesday, March 22, was canceled, and the next meeting after that is Wednesday, April 4.