[Note from Patch Regional Editor Gary Jeanfaivre: The original article incorrectly reported that funds were added to the budget. We are stunned and embarrassed by our mistake, and deeply apologize for the confusion we have clearly caused. We take full responsibility for that, and have set up plans to prevent this from reoccurring. Moving forward, any articles that deal with town government issues will get a full edit prior to publication. Here is my email and phone number should anyone have any questions or concerns: Gary Jeanfaivre, Patch Regional Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-556-0777]
Compromise was the call word at the June 27th Legislative Council meeting, with both residents and council members agreeing that a budget was needed that would pass. Whether more money was added or more taken away -- and where those funds would come from -- proved to the sticking point.
In the end, though, the Legislative Council voted to reduce the planned contribution to the fund balance by $100,000, and spending was decreased through a $100,000 deduction to the contingency fund; that $200,000 changed the proposed rate of tax increase from 0.91% to 0.69%.
This decision was not without concern, as noted by John Kortze, chairman of the Finance Committee. He came in at the end of the five-hour meeting and advised the Legislative Council that these kinds of decisions would have been best made by calling a special meeting with the Board of Finance.
The decision to take $100,000 from the fund balance came with great consternation by several of the council members, who feared the town would suffer with higher interest rates over several years.
Taking $100,000 from the town’s contingency budget was not without concern to town officials too, since it leaves $250,000 for emergencies such as might occur with extreme weather.
Legislative Council member Mitch Bolinsky called for the entire $200,000 to come from the contingency budget, however First Selectman Patricia Llodra said, “That would only leave $150,000 for the entire town. We might have to come back here for appropriation if we find ourselves in trouble, and would have to find a way to build that back up next year.”
Some council members had called for more cuts, with no additional money going toward education. Board of Education Debbie Leidlein countered, “I think it is a tremendous mistake. The BOE has worked hard to remove $1.7 million from the budget without effecting services, but with another $200,000 reduction, we will be going backwards.”
Llodra agreed. “This is one of the areas where Newtown defines itself. It’s [education] is one of our core values.”
Compromise came in the form of a list of cuts that the BOE and principals of the schools agreed would not effect services. Some of those cuts included eliminating the Transportation Coordinators, which would be a role now assumed by the All Star Bus Company. Unemployment, changing an assistant principal to a lead teacher and lowering the amount budgeted to cover workmen's compensation were also areas of reduction.
The final motion carried with an 8-3 vote.
Council member Mitch Bolinski said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”