Budget vote Round 1: Selectmen OK $450K more in spending for 2012-13
After two and one-half hours of deliberations Monday on the proposed 2012-13 budget, the Board of Selectmen adopted a spending plan of $273,011,087 -- $450,350 more than the original proposal of $272,560,737 -- for the new fiscal year.
The overall increase, however, is attributable primarily to the decision to add another $1 million to the internal service fund and to higher fuel costs.
Walsh made the motion to make the school budget cut, along with $100,000 trimmed from the legal services account and $250,000 from the surplus fund. All the reductions were approved unanimously by the selectmen, but the overall recommended spending package emerged more than $450,000 higher.
The selectmen's vote is the first step in the 2012-13 budget-approval process. The Board of Finance begins its deliberations on the budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Board of Education offices on Kings Highway.
When he proposed the change to the education budget, Walsh said everyone should share in the "pain" of attempts to rein in spending. "I'm actually hitting the town harder," Walsh said, pointing out that the Board of Education budget makes up two-thirds of the budget. "We have to look at the whole budget."
Walsh said the $250,000 reduction is less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the school budget. "I don't do this happily, or easily," he said.
Tetreau said the proposal to cut the education budget was a tough one.
"More than any other department, the Board of Education gets hit with unfunded mandates, and that presents a challenge," he said.
Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey said she was concerned about the impact the cut would have on the school system.
"There will be some initiatives that won't move forward," she said. "I think there are a lot of pressures on the school budget."
She said, however, she was inclined to support the cut although "not easily and not in a way to say it won't have any impacts."
The current education budget is $145,680,530, while the town side of the budget is $124,408,671.
The budget for 2012-13 as proposed would result in about a 4 percent tax increase, bumping the mill rate from the current 22.47 to 23.37 mills in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Walsh proposed the $100,000 cut to the $703,000 proposed legal services budget.
"I do want to have a realistic legal budget," he said.
Tetreau said the new town attorney, Stanton Lesser, is committed to reducing the town's legal expenses. In reducing the contribution to the surplus from $1 million to $750,000, Walsh said he's sensitive to the town's efforts to bring the surplus in line with what credit-rating agencies want for the town to maintain its top rating.
However, with the additional money needed in the internal service fund, he said he hoped that reduction would help minimize the projected tax increase.
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