By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Last Tuesday may have brought April showers, but that did not stop Plainville voters from passing both the town and school recommended budgets for Fiscal Year 2017-2018.
Held at the Plainville Firehouse, the All-Day Budget Vote had a 6 percent voter turnout, as 646 out of Plainville’s 11,490 registered voters came out to the polls.
According to the results released on the town of Plainville’s website, 461 votes were cast in favor of the recommended $23,022,095 general government budget, while 182 votes were cast against it.
Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese said she was pleased with the results, viewing the low voter turnout as an indicator of residents’ satisfaction with the town.
“It’s gratifying to know that people are appreciative of what we’re doing, and they are certainly looking positively on it,” said Pugliese.
Town Councilor Rosemary Morante agreed.
“Hopefully that reflects confidence that the proposed budgets were reasonable in terms of supporting solid-level town services and good public schools,” said Morante.
Meanwhile, 429 votes were cast in favor of the Board of Education’s recommended $35,503,099 budget, and 213 votes were cast against it. The FY 18 school budget reflects an increase of $678,732, or 1.95 percent. Major drivers of this budget increase include salaries and benefits, as well as health insurance and transportation.
“It says that they [the voters] like what we’re doing,” said Board of Education Chairperson Andrea Saunders.
“I’m hoping that means people in the community are very satisfied with the school district, and are willing to see those good things continue,” said Plainville Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett. “I’m very excited about heading into my second year as superintendent with a budget in place. Now I can really focus on making the continuous improvements we continue to do.”
The Town Council’s total recommended budget is $58,525,194, represents an increase of $882,731 or 1.53 percent over the current budget of $57,642,463.
Of the 182 residents who voted against the town’s general government budget, 182 voters said it was because the budget was too high, while 18 voters said they felt this budget was too low. Residents who voted no on the proposed school board budget responded similarly. Of the 213 residents who provided their opinion, 206 voters said the budget was too high, while 13 voters thought it should have been higher.
This year marks one of many recent consecutive years in which Plainville’s budget passed on the first go-around.
“These are about the same ratios we’ve been seeing over the past few town budgets—we’re always delighted when it passes on the first go-around,” said Pugliese.
“We worked really hard over the past six years to get our programs where they are and to really work with the town to keep tax increases to a minimum,” said Saunders, noting the
Now that both budgets passed, town and school officials are waiting to see what happens in Hartford, where Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed FY 18 budget shifts over $400 million in teacher pension costs to municipalities.
If state lawmakers approve Malloy’s proposal, Plainville could end up contributing $1,927,428 in FY 18 to the Teacher’s Retirement Fund.
“Whether or not there’s going to have to be some adjustments is going to depend on what happens at the state level,” said Morante.
Although town officials generally set the mill rate by June 1, Pugliese said she is prepared to wait setting the mill rate due to the uncertainty at the state level.
“We’re going to wait to set that mill rate until we can get some more information at the state level as to where things are going to eventually shake out,” said Pugliese. “We could wait as late as some time in early June to do that.”
School officials also are taking and “wait and see approach” regarding the impact of the state budget on the district. Last December, the district lost $96,499 in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding. This mid-year reduction came after the district already had a $74,629 reduction in ECS funding last spring.
“We’re not going to worry about what happens at the state level until it happens,” said Saunders. “The budget passed, so that’s the budget we use as July 1, and we’ll deal with everything else as it comes.”
Despite the ongoing state budget challenges, Brummett is hopeful. Recently, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) indicated that while the state budget has not yet been settled, it feels strongly that ECS funding will not change, said Brummett.
“ECS is likely to stay comparable to this year,” said Brummett, adding how the district relies on ECS funding.