On April 11, Bethel voters passed the School budget but voted down the Town and Capital budgets, resulting in those budgets going back to the Board of Finance for revision, which was reviewed and approved at Town Meeting on April 24. The next step is that the revised budget goes before the Town in a referendum on May 7th. Please see the accompanying graphic to determine where you should vote, and the spreadsheet to review the budget by department, sorted by largest increases over last year.
The summary at the bottom shows the operating budget total both with and without the allocation of an anticipated refund from the state for work done on the high school. During the Town Meeting, the Board of Finance Chair Robert Manfreda and the Town Comptroller Robert Kozlowski were questioned about the nature of the $285,000 debt service reduction re-worked into the proposed budget. It came to light that there is no written documentation about the amount, timing or promise to return the funds. The decision to include the $285,000 refund was based on a phone conversation with a state official and was characterized as "likely" to happen. This caused Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale to state her opposition to including the amount in the budget. "I'm not on the board of hope" she quipped. Mr. Manfreda also conceded that the Town would be liable for the $285,000 portion of the debt service until the funds were made available to the Town.
A proposal by Mr. William Hillman to reduce the unallocated funds account by $120,000 failed. The budget them moved to a vote after a motion to end discussion with members of the audience still queued up to speak. The motion was passed and then the budget was adopted for referendum.
After the vote, Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker
had this to share about the Town Budget: "This budget proposal carries a modest tax increase of 1.6%, which is less than the rate of inflation. It pays for the constructionprojects our voters approved, it pays off more short term debt, and perhaps most importantly, it curtails the use of credit to pay for critical capital items like fire safety equipment and plow trucks, paying "cash" for these items instead. Critics of this budget have suggested that it would be okay to pay off the older debt slower, and perhaps continue to borrow for capital items in order to have a lower mill rate. That is exactly the kind of thinking that put the State of Connecticut in the dire financial situation it's in today. This budget provides for the services we need for today and sets us up for financial health in the future. The question is whether the town has the courage to not make the same mistakes the State of Connecticut has made."
Where To Vote
Proposed Operating Budget Sorted By Increase Over Last Year