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Vernon School Board Votes to Send a $51.6 Million Budget Plan to the Mayor

It was not unanimous, however.

The Vernon Board of Education on Monday night voted to send a $51,669,787 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year to Mayor George Apel.

The 6-2 approval vote was taken at a special meeting that was called to order at 6:02 p.m. and was adjourned at 6:27. Though the comment period was short, it showed there are two distinctive philosophies among school board members.

The figure represents an increase of $3,488,790, or 7.24 percent, over the $48,180,997 spending plan for the current fiscal year.

Voting in favor of the budget were Democrats Michelle Arn, Amarjit Buttar, Kyle Percy and Terri Goldich and Republicans Laura Bush and Anne Fischer.

Voting against the proposal were Republicans David Kemp and William Nicholson.

Arn made the motion to adopt the budget and Percy seconded it.

The number approved on Monday was $49,990 higher than the bottom line that came out of the final workshop last week. That is the salary of a Lake Street School teacher that was inadvertently left out of an account.

Goldich said the number represents what it will take to properly educate the town's young people.

She said items could have been added - like a "math interventionist."

The responsibility to balance, "our Board of Education budget with the town's ability to pay is not our responsibility," she said, a reference to the mayor eventually sending the school and municipal budgets in one package to the Town Council for ultimate approval.

Kemp said since the school budget proposal is not due on the mayor's desk until Friday, the Board of Education should have been in no hurry to endorse it.

Kemp said if approval by the council or referendum "is not the final result … we may have to reconstruct pieces of the budget in a short period of time."

Kemp added, "We need to find out where we can and can't be. So you can pass this tonight, but remember we may have to get to a number that is not necessarily of our choosing," he said while adding he thinks the school board should consider what number the council and voters would approve before sending the budget along.

Nicholson jumped all over that comment and agreed with Kemp.

"The Board of Education is sometimes detached from reality. Our job is to do the best we can do - within reason," he said. "We are asking people who are already heavily taxed to pay more. History is very clear that no budget referendum increases the number to a budget. Why would we vote for something that we know is not going to be the final number?"

Arn said the board was giving the public the opportunity to decide if the number is realistic.

George February 05, 2013 at 05:29 PM
For a Board of Education member to say that it's not their responsibility to balance their budget with the Town's ability to pay is a total abdication of responsibility!! If ability to pay is not part of the consideration, then the sky's the limit! Unbelievable!!
meowkats4 February 06, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Well, the attitude of the Board of Education member to say it's NOT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO BALANCE THEIR BUDGET WITH THE TOWN'S ABILITY TO PAY. We are the tax payers and we have to pay! Does this Board Member even live in Vernon and pay Vernon Taxes??
Bert February 06, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Every elected official has to live in town or they could not be an elected official in town! Who was the board member?
meowkats4 February 06, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Council Member on School Budget. "We Have a Lot of Decisions to Make" I say they sure DO!!! Bert, hard to tell by article above who the Board Member is, check into it!!
Cathy February 08, 2013 at 07:10 PM
I respectfully disagree. The BOE member is right. It is the Board of Education's job to present a budget that, in their best estimation, reflects the needs of the school district. In turn, it is then the Town Council's--and, ultimately, the taxpayer's--job to decide whether or not the town can afford it and to adjust the budget and/or the mil rate accordingly. Our district has been underfunded for years because taxpayers have insisted on zero or near zero increases even during good times. Now we're paying the price for that by being ranked as one of the 30 worst districts in the state. You get what you pay for. I, for one, am thrilled that the Board of Ed has finally found the balls to advocate for what the district really needs. Had they been doing so all along we may not be in the mess we're in right now. Personally, I think that the requested increase is reasonable for the needs of our district, but I do question whether or not the town can afford it and I also question whether taxpayers will be willing or able to pay such an increase. Even so, the Board should not be making assumptions and basing the school budget on what they 'guess' might be palatable to taxpayers, they need to base it on what they see is the need of the district and then let taxpayers decide whether or not they support it.
meowkats4 February 08, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Well, as a Tax Payer we CAN"T AFFORD this Budget of a 7.69% INCREASE!!! If the STATE of Connecticut passes the bill that CAR TAXES will no longer be collected for those that value at $20,000. this town is screwed!! That will be revenue they won't get, which turn means they have to make up the difference some how some way! I said this before in another post, we need TAX Dollars used wisely in this Town, this Economy is not doing so great for those of us that don't get nice raises or "Collective Bargaining Contracts" It's the Tax Payers fault that VERNON is ranked as one of the 30 worst districts in the State. "WE GET WHAT WE PAY FOR!!! Your talking just like a BOE member, fighting for the increase. Well, I am fighting like a TAX PAYER!
Cathy February 09, 2013 at 08:55 PM
No, meowkats4, I'm not fighting at all. I'm simply making an observation and voicing an opinion. I'm seeing this as 2 separate things: 1) What the district NEEDS, and 2) What taxpayers can afford. I thought I stated that clearly before but apparently not. It's the board's job to tell the town what the district NEEDS, and it's the taxpayer's job--either through our elected officials or through a referendum--to come back and say "yes, we can afford that" or "no, we can't afford that, make some cuts." If you can't afford the increase, vote it down. We all have a voice in this. The reasons that we're in the bottom 30 are complicated but yes, underfunding over the years is a part of it. Like us, the district has incurred increased costs for oil, gas, healthcare, food, etc. over the years. If we don't approve small year to year budget increases to cover these costs, the money has to come from other accounts (textbooks, supplies, technology, etc.) because those bills do need to be paid. Doing that year after year will eventually catch up to us...and it has. The larger increase now IS due in part to taxpayers demanding zero or miniscule increases over the past 10 years or so. There's only so much that you can cut without affecting learning. I work in another district, and I can attest that compared to other districts, Vernon has fallen behind the 8 ball in many things, especially in technology. Whether or not we're ok with that is something we each have to decide.

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