BERLIN - Mayor Mark Kaczynski addressed the Board of Education Monday night to discuss its budget in advance of the Town Council’s vote to possibly reduce it Tuesday night.
“Where we’re at, it’s a difficult spot to be in,” said Kaczynski. “I don’t know how, quite frankly, upfront, how we don’t reduce some on the board of education operation side,” he said, with voters rejecting the proposed schools budget.
The council, last week, requested more guidance on how to reduce the education budget. But the school board President Matt Tencza said the proposed education budget was a responsible one and did not want to offer a lower number.
“We did that heavy lifting upfront, so we were happy with the Board of Finance moving forward without a recommended cut,” said Tencza, adding the 1.99 percent increase request was the lowest in at least eight. “And we understand that the council and yourself are in a very difficult position,” Tencza told Kaczynski.
Tencza said he shared, in a Monday morning meeting morning meeting with the mayor and School Superintendent Brian Benignu, a letter with explaining what would be first impacted by cuts. But that letter was not definitive because the extent of any cuts is not known.
Tencza declined to share the letter, which he also had sent to all the council members.
“If they come back with a $10,000 budget reduction because they have to do something, which is not realistic – it’s not going to happen - then I can say to the mayor we can manage $10,000,” said Tencza “But anything greater than that it’s going to have an impact that we have put forth as ways to move forward.”
The council will vote to either accept the budget as is or reduce it and send it to referendum, or reject it and trigger a joint board of finance board and town council meeting, in which nine votes are needed to approve a budget.
At the April 24 referendum, 16.9 percent of voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposed $45.6 million and $43.9 million education budget, adding they thought both were too high in response to advisory questions.
After that vote, budgets were sent back to the finance board so it could make changes in response to the voters. The finance board cut about $1 million from the town side but made no changes to the education side.
The changes would lower the tax increase from 5 percent to 3.6 percent, or $279 to $203 on a house valued at $250,000. The tax rate would increase 1.13 mills, down from the 1.6-mill increase rejected at referendum.
Board of Finance Chairman Vice Chairwoman Gerry Paradis, in a previous finance board meeting discussing revisions to the budgets, said Kaczynski suggested an increase of about 1-mill would be a good goal.
“Sometimes you have to take a tough position,” against the voters, said Sam Lomaglio, finance board chairman, adding he thought the school board put forth a responsible and honest budget.
Sal Bordonaro was the one finance board member who voted against sending the budget with no changes as he thought it could be cut and the voters should be listened too.
The second referendum is May 22. If the budgets fail a second time the council makes the final decision on budget allocations.
Board member Julia Dennis, as Kaczynski made his comments Monday, said she thought signs around town saying ‘ax the budget’ were one sided and may have persuaded people who weren’t fully aware of the budgets to vote against them.
Kaczynski, a republican, said there were some signs paid by the Republican Town Committee that said to vote no on the budget, as that was the republican majority on the council’s opinion. But, the signs Dennis was referring to had no party affiliation on the bottom.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.