Seymour finance board cuts police, snow removal budget

Days after voters rejected both the town and school budgets, the Board of Finance on Monday slashed $230,000 from the overall bottom line.

The board unanimously voted to cut $155,000 from the $22.2 million town side of the budget and $75,000 from the $31.1 million Board of Education budget.

The reduced combined bottom line is now $53.02 million with a reduced mill rate of 33.26 mills. If approved at a second referendum May 23, a taxpayer with a home assessed at $200,000 will pay an additional $86 in taxes next year.

Board Chairwoman Trish Danka said the cuts were “painful to make,” but the voters had spoken.

The town cuts include $69,000 from the Police Department ($29,000 for a new cruiser and $40,000 from a prospective new captain’s salary); $20,000 from Public Works (snow plowing materials and overtime); $20,000 from technology; $10,000 from economic development; $10,000 from highway materials; $10,000 from the finance department; $8,000 from regional ambulance service VEMS; $6,000 from the fire department; $6,000 from communications; $3,000 from culture and arts; $2,000 from parks and $1,000 from Seymour Ambulance.

“I’m trying to spread the pain and do it across the board,” Danka said.

First Selectman Kurt Miller agreed that making cuts is never easy.

“I’m not happy about any of these cuts, but we have to make tough decisions,” Miller said. “The few residents that showed up (at the referendum) spoke very loudly, and we have to recognize what they said.”

Regarding the school budget, the finance board can only make a bottom line cut, and cannot dictate specific items to cut.

School board Chairman Yashu Putorti said the board will meet on May 20 to discuss where to possibly make cuts. He said that $504,000 of the increase alone is necessary just to maintain the status quo. And the conservative 2.1% increase the board requested is the lowest in years, he said.

Of the $211,000 in new initiatives, Putorti said they are earmarked to hire two teachers to reduce classroom sizes ballooning up to 30 kids; hire four, part-time paraprofessional aides; buy a new school bus and offer some long-overdue extra-curricular programs for students.

The cuts were necessary after voters shot down both the town and school budgets for fiscal year 2013-14 Thursday, and also rejected the idea of funding school resource officers anytime soon.

During a day-long referendum held at the Community Center, voters rejected the $22.2 million town side of the budget by a vote of 735-571, and also defeated the $31.1 million Board of Education budget by a vote of 817-487.

A third question on the ballot asked voters if they’d be willing to add $377,000 at a later time to hire four full-time SROs to be stationed at each of the town’s four schools. That proposal was nixed by a vote of 938-366.

The overall budget increase was $1.5 million, or 2.9%, more than the current $51.8 million budget. The proposed mill rate increase of .63% would have raised the current mill rate from 32.83 mills to 33.46 mills. All told, the increase translated to an additional $126 in taxes next year for a homeowner with a house assessed at $200,000.

Putorti said the usual complaints about teachers earning too much, or Seymour being top-heavy with administrators, were addressed last year when the board eliminated an administrative position and negotiated a teachers’ contract with just a 3% per year total increase, with teachers paying 17% in health benefit costs in the third year of the contract.

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