Newtown has been the object of countless acts of generosity since 12/14. Whether through sympathy or a sense of kinship — that we’re all in this difficult and dangerous world together — perfect strangers have declared themselves citizens of the emotional territory of Newtown and have done their part to support through donations, both cash and in-kind, Newtown’s future recovery. Next Tuesday, Newtown’s actual citizens will have to declare themselves on the matter of the town’s future by voting on a budget.
In a 9-3 vote April 3, the Legislative Council moved a budget request of $111,149,825 to an April 23 referendum. If approved the budget would increase spending about 4.7 percent over the current year, while generating a 5.24 percent tax increase according to Town Finance Director Robert Tait.
Because of this year’s revaluation, with average property values dropping markedly, an approved budget would bump the current 24.54 mill rate to 33.77. A mill represents one dollar in taxation for every $1,000 in taxable property.
Following the shortest public budget hearing in recent memory, the council will take up deliberations on the 2013-14 proposal with the possibility of acting on the request as early as April 3, according to council Chairman Jeff Capeci.
Only three citizens addressed the council during the approximately 20-minute session. In previous years, public hearings have swelled to the extent that they were held in the high school lecture room and auditorium.
The Board of Finance has no line item authority over the school district budget request, but that did not stop its members from suggesting myriad ways the Board of Education and district administration could shave its $73,042,343 spending plan without necessarily eliminating key components like planned security enhancements, technology upgrades, facility maintenance and even full-day kindergarten.
As time passes following the December 14 Sandy Hook School massacre of 20 children and six adults, town police officials are assessing the implications of the event in terms of future police staffing and the security levels that will be required at local schools.
They also are considering the prospect of police activity returning to normal, as adaptation to new conditions occurs.
The Police Commission and police command staff members discussed the many ramifications of the 12/14 incident at a March 5 session.
If the Town of Newtown were to run on the currency of goodwill and compassion, the 2013-2014 budget would be easy to construct and even easier to pass. The town seems to be amassing substantial reserves in both accounts in the wake of 12/14. But when it comes to cash on the barrelhead for public services rendered, the munificence of local taxpayers has traditionally been a little more measured.
Selectmen Monday night quickly approved the general government’s roughly $4 million portion of the overall first selectman’s proposed $38.5 million 2013-14 budget. They will review other portions of the overall proposal continuing next week.
The municipal spending plan, which does not include the $73,042,343 Board of Education proposal, is a 1.9 percent increase — $731,155 — over the 2012-13 budget. The complete proposed budget summary and budget details can be viewed on the town’s website at Newtown-ct.gov.
After voting to request security resource officers be placed by the Newtown Police Department at each of the elementary schools in town for next school year, the Board of Education postponed a decision on its 2013-14 budget on Thursday, January 31, until a future meeting. That meeting could take place as soon as Tuesday, February 5.
Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein said she did not feel prepared to make a decision Thursday evening on the proposed budget.