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Updated: Mayor: Budget of $81 Million Would Increase Average Dollar Value of Taxes by 2.41 Percent

The mayor released the budget books on Tuesday.

Mayor George Apel on Tuesday released to the public his budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The $81.34 million budget represents an increase of 2.59 percent. Projected tax revenue from $1.7 billion Grand List would total $57.8 million, forcing the tax rate to increase by 4.15 mills to 34.05 mills if the budget were approved by the Town Council with no changes. The current tax rate is 29.90 mills.

In terms of the actual impact on the wallet, after all revenue  and revaluation are factored in, Apel said the average increase would be 2.41 percent.

"As far as I am concerned, the mill rate is an mathematical figure," Apel said. "The tax impact could be 2.41 percent on average. That's the figure that matters."

Here is a quick breakdown:

• General Government - $26.5 million, a 3.98 percent increase.

• Total Capital improvements/debt service - $6.3 million, a 1.53 percent increase.

• Education - $48.4 million, a 1.98 percent increase.

Budgetary summary sheets are attached.

meowkats4 March 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Okay Chris I think my heart rate is getting somewhat back to normal!!! 13% increase sent me flying!!!!
Chris Dehnel (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 06:13 PM
@Mark - yes, that's why I updated right away to make it less confusing and less time on the calculator. We now have the documents attached.
Chris Dehnel (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Another update: Budgetary summary sheets are attached.
Tea for Two March 13, 2012 at 06:25 PM
New term "average dollar value". The mil rate apples to all property. If this rate goes forth, then those with cars will see a 13% higher tax on the book value than they would have at last years mil rate. A car of $30,000 value will cost $125 more. Then again, maybe it's time to have an "average tax rate" for the state on autos like MASS. does. This would eliminate the variation in tax on the same car for different municipalities.
Mark Kalina March 13, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Time for a budget referendum vote.
Rocky March 13, 2012 at 09:50 PM
If the taxpayers want a referendum they can have their say at the town meeting. The elimination of bonuses is a start.
Vernon Taxpayer March 14, 2012 at 03:56 AM
My homes taxes will increase $245.64 from last years. That is $20.47 a month. The increase seems to be approx 4.2% increase. Our home decreased in assessment by 16,640. This may not hold true for everyone, our neighborhood has always seemed to be on the high end of the taxes. If you check other towns their taxes are all going up as well. Some much higher than ours.
Sarah Harrigan March 14, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I have no problem with a minor increase if they weren't giving out bonuses and decreasing funds spent on education. We are getting less for our money rather than more. Education does not seem to be a priority for the mayor, town council and BOE. That becomes a problem. Why would anyone want to continue living here?
Bert March 14, 2012 at 03:17 PM
This mayor has made education a priority for years. While on the BOE, he watched every dime and got the most for it. Let's underscore the fact that his budget contains $900,000.+ over last year's BOE funding. The BOE will absorb the $120,000 reduction without harm to kids. For example: The lack of a new coat of paint on the boys' rooms will not hamper learning. Every mayor in the past 30 years has made a reduction to the BOE's original budget request. Regarding bonuses - the entire concept rubs people the wrong way (unless, of course, they get one themselves!). Maybe these people really deserve them? Maybe it is part of their contract? I don't know. I don't know what percentage of the budget they represent. I can reasonably guess that Apel looked them over very carefully before including them in his budget. But I bet that if you took out everyone of them, it would probably not put a dent in an $81 million budget. That is a good question for the budget hearing. I have another question. I want to know, where is this town that we all can move to that has outstanding services and taxes that just keep loweirng and lowering every year. It must be quite overpopulated by now! I do know that if money were all it took to educate kids then the Hartford School System would be graduating many Rhodes Scholars!
Nancy Krupienski March 14, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I agree with you Sarah. The reason those people get merit bonuses is because they are already at the top of their pay scale. Who determines whether or not they deserve them? Should we give someone a pat on the back when our school system in in the bottom 30 in the state? Instead of investing money in the school system to draw people into town it is driving people away. In the past 30 days I have never heard so many discussions of people talking about moving their kids to magnet schools or moving out of Vernon altogether. At this point is there a perfect town out there? Maybe not, but a lot of people are starting to say "Anywhere but here..."
Sarah Harrigan March 14, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Bert I agree, a new coat of paint won't make a difference but there are other things such as para support in the classrooms that are making a direct affect in the kids education. As far as the bonuses are concerned I am not sure if it is their contract but I don't know anyone who deserves a bonus for just doing their job. If our schools are in the bottom 30 districts in the state then someone is not doing their job and I know from assisting in the classrooms the teachers and paras are doing more than their fair share. The administration, however does not appear to be doing theirs. I am all for raising taxes in moderation if the increased revenue is making a difference other than ensuring the town council get new laptops and others get bonuses.
Bert March 14, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I believe that the Town Council got I-Pads because it's more cost effective than using reams of paper, staff time and copier toner to create 12 packets of 30 to 50 pages each,twice a month. I too would be willing to pay more taxes if I thought that it would improve education but Vernon has the "oldest" population in the state. Many of these people might want to more fully support education but are just not able. We have a new Superintendent of Schools who, so far, seems to be very good. From what I hear, she does not agree that all of the present para professional positions are a total necessity. I think that she understands that things have to change radically to improve education in Vernon and throwing more money at it is not the only answer. All around the country we are hearing that the way we educate kids is not working. Things have got to change and it will not be easy to shed the old ways. Maybe Dr, Conway knows more about this than we parents do and I am for giving her the time to prove it. The Administration and the Board of Education ARE doing their jobs. It is trivializing their task to suggest that they are wontonly wasting money. Again, I agree that education is our major priority but education already makes up the largest portion of the town's budget by far. Shouldn't it be important that the town side of the budget be adequately funded also? It's obviously not your priority but don't be so quick to short change needs that are important to others.
Rocky March 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Merit bonuses should be eliminated all together. If one wants a merit bonus, get a job in the private sector.
Sarah Harrigan March 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
If the town council received iPads why are they getting new laptops? As far as Dr. Conway is concerned she has a reputation for cutting budgets but not necessarily making those schools better. She is more concerned with numbers. She has not been inside these classrooms to know what happens day to day nor does she realize the value of paras in the classroom. So we will agree to disagree on these points. I am entitles to my opinion as you are for yours. When was the last time you were in an elementary classroom? The teachers are doing a fantastic job and should be getting more support from the Superintent than they do. It's very sad.
Bert March 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I see. So this is not so much about the "budget". It is really all about the Para professional issue. I get it.
Mark Kalina March 15, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Dr. Conway is very experienced. Previously, she was a Teacher, Principal and Superintendent. Her children attended Vernon Public Schools. To say she doesn't know her way around a classroom would be a mis-characterization of her skill set. If you have not heard her speak I would highly recommend you do so before judging her bonfides. She is experienced with zero based budgets from her previous experience. Why not try to wring out as much value from the fat in a budget to get maximum effect? Working with a carefully laid out and coordinated plan certainly would seem to have better prospects of educational success than merely throwing money at a situation and hoping some of it sticks. Fix the problem, don’t treat the symptom! Personally, I believe in general teachers are doing a good job, yet locally and nationally something is wrong with the system. Obviously what has been done during the last 20 years appears not to have worked. Why go with the same old same old? I believe Dr. Conway brings some fresh ideas to the table that deserve serious consideration. Let’s not reject the ideas out of hand because we may not initially be comfortable with them.
Sarah Harrigan March 15, 2012 at 01:26 AM
It's not just the para issue. That is just one piece of the puzzle. I have heard her speak and was not impressed with what she had to say. Again this is my opinion. She may have been a teacher at one point but she had not spent time in these classrooms recently for the judgements that she makes. Yes budgets need to be re-allocated to say the least to make things work but my children go to these schools and I have yet to see strong investment in the education system here in Vernon.
Mark Kalina March 15, 2012 at 02:55 AM
The town and BoE has made a large commitment and investment to the schools. In terms of Facilities, teachers, staff, support, budget, taxes, time. What kind of "investment" are you looking for? This is public education and public financing. If you are expecting Renbrook performance, maybe you should be looking elsewhere...
Nancy Krupienski March 15, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Every year surrounding towns ask for an increase to their BoE budget. Vernon does not. Parent supply lists become longer and longer. Teachers are on a donor website asking for supplies for their classroom, library books for their libraries which are either too small or lacking in subject matter. This may be public education and public financing but these kids don't deserve to be in the bottom 30. The reform is now coming and discussions on closing Northeast or Maple Street schools were mentioned at the BoE meeting in which her reform plan was presented. Also discussed were moving all 5th graders to the middle school. The key in this equation is that administrators are discussing this, but have the teachers been asked for ideas? No we aren't looking for Renbrook education but these kids do deserve the best we can afford to give them. Have I fought for paraprofessionals? Yes...because they are direct contact with our children and give them that little extra in the classroom of 25 kids or varying skill sets and socioeconomic backgrounds. I support Vernon teachers. Is this the whole component of why Vernon residents are mad? No. We get to see money thrown for merit bonuses and it sticks so why can't we hope to throw a little extra money at our kids and hope it sticks? Based on the current state of our school system, I wouldn't be suggesting to people they look elsewhere for education. Vernon can't really afford to lose more families who care about education....
Mark Kalina March 15, 2012 at 01:33 PM
"Vernon can't really afford to lose more families who care about education...." That is a red herring argument- I think nearly all folks deeply care about education at some level. Expecting folks to pony up large tax increases is not realistic in light of the current economic backdrop. With a bottom 30 education ranking, the social economic situation of many of the residents mimic that bottom ranking as well. Lets face it, Vernon is an old town, with “historic charms” if one is looking for a euphemism. One possible solution might be a rethinking about the mainstreaming of ALL children. The ones with most severe challenges should have at least some special education classes, catering to their specific needs, while giving them a quality education. This would lessen the need for as many paras and diminish potentially disruptive behavior in the classroom. Disruptive behavior comes not only from “troubled” children, it also comes from those that are bored. Bored because of other dramas are preventing them from being fully engaged. I am all for giving children full life experiences, yet should it be at a cost that deprives others of their right to learn? Not that many years ago there were virtually no paras in classrooms. How did the children ever get educated? Nancy, teachers are asked all the time for their opinion so are the parents, administrators and politicians. There is no lack of ideas and opinion. It is now time to fix the problem and stop the obfuscation.
Sarah Harrigan March 15, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Mark - you make a few good points about the "troubled" children however, there are children in the classroom that do become a disturbance for a variety of reasons. Boredom may be one of them. Those particular children will remain in the classrooms as they are not the challenged ones that need the one on one assistance. You asked how we were educated back in the day. Frankly we did not have the same demands that children and teachers do today. The times are changing for sure. What is expected from even kindergartners is astonishing compared to what was done when most of us were in class. Para's act as co-educators to assist is monitoring, and continued testing, and everyday assistance to those that need the extra help. We are all struggling in this economy is true but I believe what people want is smart spending and smart choices. We may differ on what that would be. Both of my children have had to go through the special education process so I am very familiar with that. Luckily they were brought up to speed and were able to be dismissed from the special education process. But, I will say it would not have been achieved without the continued support and assistance of para's. As I mentioned before this is only one piece of the puzzle. I agree most people believe that education is important but we also have to invest in it to make it better. As Nancy said above the list of items that parents have to purchase is remarkable.
Nancy Krupienski March 15, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Then why should we be asked to "pony up" a large tax increase to pay for merit bonuses. The town can't have it both ways. Dr. Conway refers to paraprofessionals as "luxuries". Well isn't a merit bonus a "luxury"? The town paid out over $50 grand last year in bonuses. If the Board of Education had said we could use that money to fund x or y, would the town have given it? I just want to understand the thought process behind this. The fact is 20 years ago we didn't have to have a paraprofessional because we had kids that knew there was a consequence to their actions. We had funding for gifted programs so kids that had an academic edge could excel. Those funds are a proposed cut now. I think you are absolutely correct in our effort to mainstream, teachers have lost the ability to give everyone the equal education opportunity they deserve. I feel that state and federal funding is taking away those opportunities from the local Board of Educations. You are on here voicing your opinion, I am, Sarah Harrigan is. That is the passion I am talking about for education and we are the people who are getting involved to make education great again in Vernon.
Bert March 15, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Mark: You are spot on. The residents of this town have given generously to raise teacher salaries and have contributed over $100 million in bonding to refurbish our schools. Vernon residents have a strong committment to education but are less and less inclined to keep giving without seeing better results. Years ago "Teacher's Aides" were placed mainly in special education situations. Then they unionized, are now "Para Professionals" and their numbers have swelled. It has to be looked at. Parents and teachers have always had input into the education system. But not every teacher and parent agrees with the Superintendent. Nancy and Sarah are obviously two. I too am impressed with Dr. Conway and I think that she is a seasoned professional with a detailed, long-term view, based on up-to-date knowledge and experience, of what needs to be done. Also if more and more money is going to be needed and taxpayers are less and less able to meet the demand, we have to think about closing a school. Enrollment is way down. Physical plant costs are major and consolidating is a way to save dollars and put more money into those supplies and educational needs. Parents will hate it but the concept of a "neighborhood school" is becoming a thing of the past anyway with magnet schools and other similar programs. There is a lot to think about here because I don't see taxpayers going to the polls and increasing funding for education right now. They haven't in the past.
Nancy Krupienski March 15, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Bert I don't disagree with everything the superintendent has to say. I agree she has a long road ahead of her to get Vernon schools to recovery. Parents play a large role in that, making sure we get our kids to school everyday, ready to learn and participate in class. We fund teacher positions just like we fund all the other specialty professions in town, many of those also union. You are right that people will not want to pay higher taxes without seeing results. We also won't pay higher taxes to fund bonuses while cutting budgets to other departments.
Bert March 15, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Nancy: Do you know how much money is in the budget for bonuses and how they are given? I don't. If you find out, could you please post it? Thanks
Mark Kalina March 15, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Something to check on and consider. Are the bonus' contractual obligations? I think they just might be. With that in mind, teachers are not the only ones who deserve or should get raises. Not that we have a lot to give away to begin with... LOL
Nancy Krupienski March 15, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Bert they are actually listed as a line item in the budget under the departments that are destined to receive them. I will try to post them later, as I have to help the kids with homework now and have a lacrosse meeting later. The people who typically receive a merit bonus are individuals who are already at the top of their pay scale. I am not sure who decided on the bonuses before and how much people would receive. If someone were to be awarded a bonus, I would think their immediate supervisor would recommend them as a candidate, and I think it would have to tie in with a job performance evaluation at the time. I don't think it should ever be casually given without documentation. I'd love to say to you "Hey Bert! Nice talking with you on the Patch. Here's $5,000!" We can dream....LOL
Bert March 15, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I'll take it!
Nancy Krupienski March 16, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Bert...if you look under each department you will see specific items outlined for merit pay. Now "performance pay" is another category that has no line item, and has no listing where the money comes from. If you look under Tab 3 comparison by object code for 51083. There is also 6500 in the contingency fund for merit pay so they can slide that money around to dole out bonuses as well. More money can also be found to give bonuses hidden in contract negotiations so there is another way to slide in a few hundred or a few grand. There really is no specific account to see where this money magically appears from. On a side note...one program I can highly recommend within the school system is the Rockville High School Nursery School Program. My middle guy has attended the 3 year old program and is in the 4 year old program. My almost 3 year old will attend in the fall. A win win situation, an affordable preschool option, and the high school kids get hands on experience. Patricia Goff and Sara Jane Reilly do a wonderful job supervising the students. There are some wonderful parts to our school system. Hopefully with everyone working together we can pull out of this hole.
Bert March 17, 2012 at 01:02 AM
This will have to be explained in detail during the budget hearings.It is very ambiguous. I doubt very much that we are talking about "a few hundred thousand" though. From what I gather, these bonuses are for those employees not affiliated with a union and therefore, don't get mandated raises like so many others do. I think it is incumbent on the administration to treat those folks equitably even if we are not mandated by a contract to do so. I am going to wait for more information before making a judgement on this.

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