Half a million dollars cut from rejected town budget

After much discussion, some debate and a little shouting during a three-hour meeting Thursday night, the Redding Board of Finance cut more than $500,000 from the budget rejected at the May 8 referendum.

The prior proposal of $49,880,455 failed by a large margin: 1,330 against to 808 in favor.

The revised 2018-19 operating budget proposal is now $49,368,104. Board of Finance member Ward Mazzucco cast the lone dissenting vote in a 5-1 tally.

The new budget reflects an increase of 2.35% from the current year’s operating budget of $48,233,326.

Furthermore, there is a tax increase of 2.63%, which is a $1,253,018 increase of the current year’s budget, to total $48,830,500.

Voters will once again head to the polls to vote on the new budget referendum, at a date not yet announced.

2018-19 budget breakdown

The revised Board of Selectmen budget proposal is $14,738,761, a decrease of one-10th of one percent from the current year’s budget, and a decrease of $58,012 from the failed budget.

The revised Redding Board of Education budget proposal is $21,231,623, a 2.31% increase from the current year’s budget, and a decrease of $321,000 from the failed budget.

The Region 9 budget is shared between Redding and Easton. Redding’s revised proposed share of this budget is $13,397,720, a 5.27% increase from the current year’s budget, and a decrease of $133,339 from the failed budget.

The variance from the current year’s total revised proposed Region 9 budget of $24,240,493, is $451,355 — a 1.9% increase.

Redding has a larger contribution to the Region 9 budget than Easton due to an enrollment shift of 30 students.

The approved proposed mill rate is 31.80, a 7.4% increase from the current 29.62.

Board of Education budget

Mazzucco was the only member who also cast the lone vote against the revised Board of Education budget.

Cuts included eliminating the enrichment program at Redding Elementary School, the reduction of one Redding Elementary School teacher, and the elimination of one math position and one part-time writing paraprofessional at John Read Middle School.

Additional cuts included Chromebooks, library books and special education substitutes. “The cuts are going to significantly impact our schools and our classrooms,” Board of Finance member Ed Miller said.

Board of Finance member Jamie Barickman said the cuts are taking services away for regular education students and are “cutting from real programs for the kids.”

During public comment, Redding resident Dana Grey spoke adamantly against cutting student programs.

“Both the Redding budget and the Region 9 budget are making reductions to students programs and yet no one wants to discuss any reductions to Central Office. That budget was not touched,” Grey said, receiving a round of applause from the audience. “That budget could have saved freshman baseball, that could have saved maybe Latin. I think it’s very disturbing that that budget will be off the table.”

Board of Selectmen budget

Miller was the only Board of Finance member who voted against the Selectmen’s budget.  

The new Board of Selectmen budget includes $60,000 to $70,000 in savings from the town’s current insurance carrier, Anthem Health Insurance, according to town Finance Director Steve Gniadek.

The Board of Selectmen is now considering other health insurance vendors to possibly find further savings.

Additional reductions to the Board of Selectmen budget would mean cutting grants to nonprofit groups the town supports each year, including the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury and the Mark Twain Library, which recently had to replace its boiler. However, funding for these grants are expected to stay in the budget.

Additionally, the board is still planning to support the Redding-Easton Boys and Girls Club and the creation of a pop-up teen center in town.

“The small amounts that the Selectmen’s budget grants to nonprofit organizations are almost insignificant in the budget, [yet] extraordinarily valuable to the community,” Board of Finance member Rob Dean said.

 

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