Sparse attendance at budget hearing

The small turnout of residents at last week’s public hearing on the proposed town and Board of Education budgets could mean that voters are pleased with this year’s proposed increase of 1.93 percent.
The combined Town Manager and Board of Education budgets for fiscal year 2014-15 is $55,697,112, or a proposed increase of a little over $1.05 million of the current budget. While resident voters said it is a smaller increase, they said cuts could still be made.
“Every budget has some room (for cuts),” said resident John Kisluk, who suggested the Board of Education not be members of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and said the town is going “overboard” with its 30 capital projects, which has a proposed budget next year of a little over $2.76 million.
However, a large portion of that proposed budget, $1.5 million of it, is a grant that will be used for reconstruction on Cooke Street.
Town Manager Robert Lee said the town has to put the dollar amount on its capital improvement projects so it can receive the grant funding. If the funding is not approved, he said, the project will not go forward.
Andrea Saunders, chair of the Board of Education, said CABE is meant for boards of education, to teach members how to be on the board, suggest policies and offer work sessions, seminars and more, so that the board can do its best for the students of Plainville. CABE, she said, is a different organization than the organization the superintendent belongs to.
The Board of Education is requesting a budget of a little over $33.6 million, which is a 0.67 percent increase of its current budget. The town manager is requesting a budget of a little over $16.4 million, which is an increase of 3.74 percent of the current budget. In addition to that, Lee is requesting a little over $4.7 million for the town’s debt services budget.
Lee said the budget was shaped so that current staffing levels and services were maintained, while making sure the taxpayers didn’t get hit with a huge tax increase. If this proposed budget were to pass, which it won’t until the voters cast their ballots, the mill rate would need to increase by 0.38 mills, or 1.2 percent, which would bring the mill rate up to 31.76. The current average of residential taxes paid is $3,800, so if the proposed budget passed the new mill rate would increase that amount by $45.60, on average. A resident who pays $2,000 would see their bill go up by about $24. With the increase in the Grand List, $411,677 in new taxes would be generated with the proposed mill increase.
Another resident Pete Chrzanowski, who is a business teacher, said he understands the concern of rising taxes. However, he told the council not to be afraid to “look for a few extra dollars.” He said while he doesn’t want to pay more taxes, he is proud to live in Plainville where he notices public safety is above par and knows that buildings, roads and other areas in town need to be repaired and maintained. He added if the town keeps putting projects off, the cost will just continue to rise.
One increase Lee calls for is in the police overtime budget. He said, over the past three years, the police overtime budget has exceeded its allotment by $230,000. This is due to police officers retiring or leaving the department, and replacing them. Lee said it takes about one year before a new officer is able to be out on patrol on his/her own, so he said the department is getting to “full strength” and eventually that budget will go down.
Lee said the town is seeing a lot of positive growth in regards to economic development, and said several companies are expanding. With the increase in the Grand List, and the growth in economic development, “There a lot of positive signs showing in Plainville.”
Before the all-day vote,where voters can cast their ballots on the proposed Town Council’s budget and the Board of Education’s proposed budget, which is expected to happen on April 29, the council will be holding several work sessions to dissect each budget to see where they can make any adjustments. These work sessions are open to the public. However, there will be no time allotted for public comment.
The next work sessions will be held on: Thursday, March 13; Tuesday, March 18; Thursday, March 20; Monday, March 24, and Tuesday, March 25. All of the work sessions will be held in Council Chambers at the Municipal Center, 1 Central Square, at 6:30 p.m.