BOE budget failed; officials scramble to reduce school costs

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. On Tuesday, Apr. 30, residents voted down the board of education budget ($38,329,105) by just 12 votes, so officials scrambled for another attempt this Tuesday, May 14 after we went to press.

Nearly 800 residents turned out to cast votes at the Plainville Fire House on April 30 in the first referendum. The general town budget ($23,551,717) passed with 409 residents voting in favor of the proposal. In contrast, the BOE budget ($38,329,105) failed, 384-372, with 371 people saying that the budget amount was too high. Only 16 residents voted that the school budget was too low.

According to the town charter, school officials would need to submit a new budget for a second referendum vote on May 14. On Thursday, May 2, Plainville Community Schools superintendent, Dr. Maureen Brummett, called a special meeting of the BOE finance subcommittee, where she reported that the Town Council had requested that the BOE trim $100,000 to $200,000 from their budget proposal to prepare for the second round of voting.

The BOE budget proposal would still include an increase, but that increase would need to be smaller.

The town council held a public hearing on Monday, May 6, where many residents came out to show their support for the BOE. Several citizens said that, while they understood that reducing the proposed increase was necessary according to the town charter, they hoped the reduction wouldn’t reached $200,000.

At the hearing, Brummett explained that the budget is mainly driven by contractual increases and benefits, with a slight increase in utilities. “The rest of the budget, including professional services, repairs, transportation, equipment, dues, and fees, have all been reduced from last year’s levels,” she said.

During the council meeting that followed, the council voted that the BOE budget would need to be reduced by $100,000, bringing the total to $38,229,105. The new proposal would still mean a $1.1 million increase from the current school budget ($37,322,912).

Lee explained that the town charter was changed in 2012, splitting the BOE budget from the town budget when put out to referendum. They were first voted on separately in 2013. Until this referendum, both budgets had passed while separate. Having separate budgets, Lee explained, is the general trend across Connecticut.

Prior to separating the budgets, the town never really knew why a budget was defeated. According to Lee, at times people speculated that it was because BOE increases tended to be higher than town increases. Since then, he said, the increases on both sides have been relatively similar, and in some instances, the town increase was higher than the BOE increase.

This, he said, is due in part to the fact that the debt service and capital improvements line items are voted on as part of the town budget. But, both often include BOE related expenses, such as school improvement projects. Not including debt service or capital improvement line items, the BOE budget tends to make up about 63 percent of every Plainville budget.

If voters say that the budget is still too high, the council would make the appropriate reductions, and that amount would stand as the new BOE budget number. Lee explained that if the budget fails during the second referendum, the council would make the final determination.

The second referendum vote was held on Tuesday, May 14 after we went to press. For Tuesday’s referendum results, visit us at www.PlainvilleObserver.com with additional coverage in next week’s edition.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.