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Officials Ready Town, School Budget Proposals

A municipal budget proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, and an education budget proposal for Thursday.

With both the first town and school budget proposals due this week, officials are readying the first rounds of a discussion many hope will avoid a repeat of previous difficult budget years in Newtown.

Interim Superintendent John Reed will present his proposed budget Thursday at Newtown High School, a reschedule due to Tuesday’s snowfall. First Selectman Pat Llodra and Finance Director Robert Tait will present the municipal proposed budget Wednesday during a Board of Selectmen meeting at Newtown Municipal Center.

School officials in particular have been cautious about presenting an amenable budget, especially among those concerned about rising taxes.

"I heard more frustration about the increase in taxes from everybody,” said Board of Education member Kathy Hamilton at a Dec. 23 board meeting. "From the over-55 community, from parents, from people who work in the districts -- I heard it from absolutely everybody. Last year was a complete disaster as far as the increase for a lot of people. I want us to be realistic, and I don’t want us to go through three or four referenda to get there."

In the buildup to the budget presentations, Board of Finance member Joe Kearney presented numbers last week showing the board’s projection of consequences of an increasing education budget hand-in-hand with declining enrollment.

"If you were going to make a bet, I think you would bet this trend is going to continue,” Kearney said. “That’s our dilemma, that’s our challenge.”

Kearney said numbers show the influence a declining student population has had on per-pupil expenditures and the town’s overall budget. Newtown’s enrollment is currently at its lowest since 2000, according to recent figures. The town spent $14,350 per student in 2013-14 and is projected to spend more than $15,000 in 2014-15, assuming a 1.71% budget increase.

"This is why it is so critical to try and plan ahead for any rapid student population declines — because even if we spend less in total, our per pupil expenditures will increase,” Kearney said.

In December, Board of Finance members sent a letter to the Board of Education asking for, among other things, a flat budget for the upcoming year. At a Dec. 23 meeting, some Board of Education members said they would support a flat budget, but an amendment to add a zero-percent budget increase to the yearly list of budget goals failed after a tie vote, with chair Debbie Leidlein, Hamilton and David Freedman in favor and Laura Roche, John Vouros and Michelle Embree Ku against.

"Emotionally, it feels good to say zero percent,” Ku said. "But it doesn’t make sense to me. We’re here to represent the needs of the district, not what the taxpayers feel emotionally good voting for."

Followup municipal budget proposal meetings are scheduled for Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. The municipal budget will be presented to the Board of Finance on Feb. 10. Followup school budget workshops are scheduled for Jan. 28 through Feb. 14 — see the Board of Education’s budget season introduction for more details on dates.
Paul Alexander January 22, 2014 at 06:52 PM
" I do know that Ct has a budget surplus." No Porter, CT has a REAL $400 MILLION budget DFICITt. There's much reporting on the issue. Look it up. I'm not your research assistant The Governor BORROWED $900 MILLION so that he could (falsely) report two things prior to his re-election bid. 1. He did not raise taxes. No he didn't. Instead he threw 900 Large on the state's credit card. 2. After covering the $400MM deficit with the loan proceeds the $500MM left over could be (falsely) reported as a budget surplus. And Boobus Nutmegus will believe it. You certainly do.
porter gladstone January 22, 2014 at 11:37 PM
Ah so when you borrow money the money is counted as revenue? And youre saying the Treasurer and Comptroller are in on this? Nope, I went over the numbers. Economy improved, made 175 million from a tax amnesty program. Sales tax came in 35 mio over budget. 230 mio over on tax revenues owing to the improved stock market primarily. Had a reduction in expenditures due to deferred comp in many of the public union areas. A lot of that deferred comp will come back to bite us starting in 2016...but the bond issuance is not counted as revenue. If you'd like to support your thesis with the line item that has LOAN= Revuene, Id love to see it. I think where Paul Alexander is confused is that the terms of the loan include a clause that the state need only begin paying interest on the loan after the election which is an obviously slimey tactic that gets backing from this Dem state of yes men. But your contention that the 900 mio was counted as revenue is false.
porter gladstone January 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM
Oh and the interest payments on all that debt mean we owe what appears to be about 200 million right after the end of the guberntorial elections in 2014. GAAP accounting should put an end to this gimmicky/tricky stuff. Paul, do you think its possible for you to ever make a comment on Patch without insulting people? And Im still wondering how the blowing sand has affected your view of the ocean today and if the foam from the ocean has dirtied your windows? Please dont ignore my questions like this--it honestly hurts my feelings.

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