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Few Attend SaturdayBudget Hearing



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Few Attend Saturday

Budget Hearing

By Steve Bigham

Only three people turned out for the annual Saturday morning public hearing on the proposed town budget March 31 and all of them came with a similar message.

Each speaker indicated their support for the 2001-2002 budget, but only because they fear a defeated budget will mean more cuts to the Board of Education spending package. Their comments echoed those made at the first public hearing March 27 when school supporters said they would vote “yes” grudgingly.

The council was slated to conduct final deliberations on the budget this week before closing the issue in anticipation of the Tuesday, April 24, referendum (see related story). However, no major changes were expected.

Saturday’s hearing almost ended before anyone got a chance to speak.

“When we opened the meeting at 9 am, no members of the public were present,” explained Council Chairman Pierre Rochman. “We held off until 9:05 am and three people did finally show up. In all fairness, by the time we closed the meeting, a couple more came in.”

The proposed $72.6 million budget represents a 2.3 mill increase in the current budget. Many school supporters have voiced their displeasure with the Legislative Council’s decision last month to cut $200,000 out of the Board of Education budget. School officials say the cut will force the district to cut out a handful of proposed new teaching positions, essentially increasing class sizes in some classrooms at the middle school and at Middle Gate and Sandy Hook elementary schools.

Council members say they were forced to make the cut in order to keep the school board’s increase within the 7.5 percent increase threshold that they had set.

For years, council members have been complaining that the Saturday morning hearing is sparsely attended and has warn out its usefulness.

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