UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: RTM trims tax hike to 2.4% after marathon session

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RTM trims tax hike to 2.4% after marathon session

The Representative Town Meeting, after a marthon session Monday, approved a $278 million town budget for 2013-14, trimming the tax increase to 2.4 percent from 2.64 percent for the fiscal year starting July 1. The 41-8 vote came just minutes after midnight, and the cuts made over the previous four hours included a $500,00 reduction to Board of Education spending, $250,000 to the road-paving budget and another $250,000 to the budget's contingency account. The RTM also approved reductions recommended by First Selectman Michael Tetreau of $500,000 to debt service and $171,970 for fuel expenditures.

There were unsuccessful attempts to cut pay for a librarian from the Fairfield Public Library staff to save $79,000 and to trim $57,000 from the town's $350,000 contribution to the private Pequot Library.

The bulk of the cuts were proposed by Republicans on the RTM, and votes often fell along party lines. Democrats objected vociferously to cut in school spending, which began the night at about $151.7 million for the next fiscal year. When asked, Superintendent of Schools David Title said the additional cut will mean administrators will review reducing both certified and non-certified staff, "anywhere we could do the least amount of harm." "We were elected to deliver services the town needs in a cost efficient manner," said RTM member Julie Gottlieb, D-6, noting that the school board proposed increase was just 1.85 percent. The board had initially approved a $155.8 million budget request for 2013-14.

John Mitola, D-2, said he could live with the restoration of $350,000 to the Pequot Library's allocation, action that was taken by the RTM in April, if there were no deeper cuts to the Board of Education.

The RTM, Marc Patten, D-7, said, had approved teacher and administrator contracts with 2 percent increases, while the overall education spending hike was only 1.85 percent.
"If you do the math, we're already below the 2 percent salary increases," Patten said. "To cut further, we know it's going to affect programs."

Taintor Drive resident John Donovan said more spending doesn't equal a better education, and listed areas he felt are too high in the school budget, such as $86,000 for mileage reimbursement and $80,000 for elementary school math text books that were never purchased. He also suggested reducing the number of high school guidance counselors from 18 to 12.
"Demand some accountability," he said. "Other towns have standards, we don't."

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