The other shoe
drops...insurance bids come in favorable!
At the Monday, March 16th Board of Education
meeting, first word on how the health insurance numbers for four
options were coming out...possibly no increase at all instead $763,000
estimated. Superintendent of Schools cuts to the chase - after
much discussion of self-insured, fully funded, school-town together or
separate options, and the best numbers from carriers for health,
hospital and dental, things seem to be looking good!
SCHOOL BUDGET FOR FY2010 APPROVED BY BOARD OF EDUCATION
Education meeting Tuesday, January 20, 2009 snapshots
Arriving too late for "public comment" (the meeting had been moved at
the last minute from 7:30 to 7pm), WHS Girls Gymnastic Coach allowed to
speak at the earliest opening in Board discussion of the
Superintendent's budget request; Athletic director on the carpet
- altho' he really wanted to save the program as an official sport (not
just a "team").
The Board, using the savings ($13k) provided by "Mile of Safety"
revision for next year, debates and votes to have the Girl's Gymnastics
Team restored (@$15k).
"Work Shop #1"Jan. 12, 2009:
2.62% increase (total school budget proposed $45,129,890 incl. Excess Cost Grant reduction *
To begin...overall goals for this budget, the
enrollment picture and K-5 classs size
history, and the interest in the school community and the Weston
Members of the school board asked
questions, pondered answers and...
engaged staff after Superintendent Belair, Mr.
Anderson, Dr. Keating and Dr. Scarise's presentations. There was
even time left for...QUESTIONS from the public!
* = estimate based on best knowledge at
this point (the beginning) of Legislative Session in Hartford (not over
December 2nd regarding the current financial crisis and its
implications for Weston
FORUM REPORT OF DECEMBER 2, 2008 in
the Town Hall Meeting Room and on Town TV (NOT during the 90 minutes
executive session section!)
Preceded by two executive sessions from 7:30pm to after 9pm, the
Special Joint Meeting, initiated by the Selectmen, we think, ran from
that time until after 10:30pm.
Distributed by the Town Administrator for the Board of Selectmen were
two (2) documents including the following items:
Only $169,000 remains available for supplemental appropriations
through June 30, 2009...if Weston is to keep to its plan for year end
Undesignated Fund Balance of $7,341,000.
- the first was "third pass" at FY2010 Town
Budget Outlook documement. "Mill Rate Impact Factors" listed were
three...decline in building fees, investment income offset by increase
in Town Clerk fees.
- Second, estimate of approximately 15% decline in state aid
- ECS ($142,000), LOCIP ($10,000)TRA ($19,000)
- Fire Station payment
- ONE FACTOR THAT WILL HELP REDUCE THE MILL RATE NEXT YEAR:
debt service decline of $466,000
The second document was the adjustable 10-year or long range forecast
for Town Budget and Mill Rate. Although "About
Town" requested and received copies of these documents, we are not
uploading them to the Internet, as both are going to change and are
Joint meeting: Weston boards cautious
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In an era when many are suffering through hard times because of the
bleak economy, the town of Weston’s three major boards are taking a
hard look at the upcoming 2009-10 town and school budgets.
While the selectmen and the school board talked about possible 3%
increases to next year’s budget, the finance board cautioned that even
that may be too high.
“This is a different budget year than in the past; there is clearly a
difference this year,” said finance board member Melissa Koller.
In an effort to get an idea of how the current financial crisis is
affecting the town and schools, members of the Board of Selectmen,
Board of Education and Board of Finance held a special joint meeting on
Tuesday, Dec. 2.
Though no direct action was taken at the meeting, the boards left with
the understanding that it was critical to keep costs as low as possible.
“This is reality time. Everyone I talk to is asking what we are going
to do about taxes. No one is saying don’t cut them. I have to listen to
what people are telling me,” Ms. Koller said.
Mike O’Brien, finance board chairman, opened the meeting by asking the
selectmen where the town stood as far as tax delinquencies,
bankruptcies, and repossessions were concerned, and if unemployment was
on the increase. “We need to get a feel for these things as we plan the
budget,” he said.
Fellow finance board member Dave Muller said it would be good to have
some kind of metric, or standard of measurement, so those economic
issues could be factored into the analysis.
But First Selectman Woody Bliss was not certain a metric could be
devised because economic factors are difficult to calculate. For
example, he said, a notice of foreclosure on a piece of property did
not necessarily mean the house would in fact be foreclosed on.
“There are many foreclosure notices recorded on the land records, but
only one actual foreclosure has gone through that I am aware of,” he
Revenue stream is OK
As to the impact of personal economic factors on the town’s revenue
stream, Tom Landry, town administrator, projected that the town’s
revenues would be fine despite possible foreclosure increases because
town taxes have to be brought current when the property is reconveyed.
“Foreclosures do not affect the tax collection rate,” Mr. Landry said.
Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she is more concerned about what will
happen a year from now, and whether homeowners will have trouble paying
their taxes then. She said many banks have tax escrows set up and taxes
due in July were paid from those escrows. “It will be interesting to
see how things are in a year,” she said.
She noted that the town’s social services department is much busier now
and has had an increase in families needing financial assistance this
Mr. Bliss said the selectmen were considering a possible 3% increase
for the town side of the budget in 2009-10.
For a 3% hike, that would mean the town’s current budget would increase
Mr. Landry explained that the town had estimated an increase in
expenses totaling $465,650, which was $146,850 more than the 3% target.
“Cuts will have to be made in the budget just to get to 3%,” Mr. Landry
Several of the estimated increases were employee related and include a
$146,000 payroll adjustment for salaries, $9,250 in Social Security
increases, $100,000 in health insurance increases, and $7,650 in
Other items include $30,000 in energy increases, $71,000 for the Kids
in Crisis program, a $37,250 GASB liability, a $5,500 liability
insurance increase, and $97,000 for 3.5% increases in other budget
The estimated increases were offset by $38,000 from a projected
workers’ compensation reduction and expiration of a planning and zoning
Ellen Uzenoff, chairman of the school board, and Jo-Ann Keating, the
schools’ finance director, said the schools were also looking at a 3%
increase in their budget for 2009-10.
Ms. Keating said the schools had already implemented some ways to cut
costs in the current year’s budget, which would carry over into the
next fiscal year.
Finance board member Patrice Kopas asked if the schools were looking at
the money spent on such things as conferences, and Superintendent Jerry
Belair said they were definitely taking a look at those things. “There
may be areas of cost containment, rather than savings, as well,” Mr.
Ms. Uzenoff said the schools were also looking at reducing
transportation costs by examining current bus routes. “Hopefully, we
can turn the octopus into a squid,” she said.
School board member Joe Fitzpatrick said it was also important to look
carefully at capital projects and repairs. He said the middle school
roof may need to be replaced, and if so, it would be a high-ticket item.
Mill rate impact
In addition to expenditures by the town and schools, Mr. Landry said
there were three other factors that will likely increase the mill rate
The first factor is an estimated decrease in building fees ($115,000)
and investment income ($250,000).
Mr. Landry said those decreases will be offset by an estimated increase
in town clerk fees ($100,000), for a total of $265,000 in decreased
He said the second factor is an estimated $171,000 loss in state aid.
The third factor is a $300,000 payment for the construction of the
Lyons Plain firehouse.
On the flip side, Mr. Landry noted there is expected to be a decline in
the debt service, to the tune of $466,000 in savings.
The items net out at $270,000, or a 0.45% increase in the estimated
After listening to the town and school budget proposals, Mr. Muller
said a 3% increase was not necessarily acceptable in light of the tough
“Although 3% might work, you should be thinking 1%, too,” Mr. Muller
said. He added that he didn’t want to wait until the 11th hour to tell
the boards they needed to cut their budgets further. “Prepare for it
now; that’s why we are having this meeting,” he said.
Mr. Bliss said a 1% increase in the town budget would likely mean some
services would be eliminated.
Finance board member Michael Carter said he, too, was concerned about
the 3% number. He cautioned the boards not to get trapped into a
certain percentage increase.
“Don’t just look at 3% or 4%. There is a mindset that contractual
obligations are fixed, but more times than not they are not fixed
costs. We need to break the mold,” he said.
Selectman Glenn Major said if building applications were down the town
might have to look at reducing staff that is currently manning those
departments. But Mr. Landry said he didn’t want to get employees
“whipped up” on a maybe.
The joint meeting was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., but because of
two lengthy executive sessions at the beginning, it started after 9.
Although several members of the public were initially in attendance,
only two remained when the meeting started.
With Channel 12 in
attendance (they waited throught the 2 executive sessions noted above
in the story about the Multi-Board meeting)..."public hearing" on Bus
Tier Structure, ETC. "About Town" in attendance to make sure we
were up on the traffic question!
Remember the "Start Times" meeting
and cause? Maybe in response, the Board had a study commissioned
done re: rerouting bus service. The flooding out of the
Cartbridge Bridge caused real time delay in any possible changes.
However, the delay ended up being a good thing (our opinion) as the
economic winds of changes will press heavily on this and other issues
related to education services in Weston going forward...
money: School Systems Around State Being Warned About Spending
By DON STACOM
November 11, 2008
Bracing for a potentially brutal year ahead,
municipal officials around
the state are reaching out to their school systems with an unwelcome
message: Don't count on business-as-usual spending increases.
Grim financial projections from the Capitol are
government leaders to warn that there won't be money to fund new school
programs — and possibly not enough to maintain everything that's on the
"It's prudent for towns to plan very conservatively.
herself has tried to indicate the seriousness of the budget position,"
said Jeffrey Beckham, a spokesman for the Office of Policy and
Management. "The news has just been unremittingly bad."
State budget officials expect Connecticut's tax
revenue to drop
substantially because of the Wall Street collapse and nationwide
economic slump. They don't yet have detailed estimates of how that will
affect state aid to municipalities, but many communities are preparing
contingency plans in case the outcome is bad. Towns usually start
discussing school spending proposals in January or February, but this
year is different.
Cheshire's council and school administration met
recently to review
three possible revenue models for 2009-10, reflecting anywhere from
middle-of-the-road to dismal circumstances. One is based on a 2 percent
increase in state aid and local tax revenues, the second assumes a 7
percent drop-off and the third figures on a 12 percent decline.
"We want to get some guidance from the council about
what sort of
budget it wants," Town Manager Michael Milone said Friday. "If cuts
have to be made, the time to make them is early in the process, not at
the 11th hour."
Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee is inviting his
board and council to hear a fiscal forecast this month, and Bristol
Mayor Art Ward has begun talking money with his school system.
"We're preparing for a lean and mean budget process
this year," Ward
"We are running various scenarios for next year. One
is with state
revenue flat, one is with a 5 percent reduction in current services,"
Bristol Superintendent of Schools Philip Streifer said.
Pay raises, benefit costs and special education
expenses could add $5
million to $7 million to the city's $101 million school budget next
year, he said. If the state doesn't cover most of that, the schools
will have to cut back.
"It's not a pretty picture. The big money is in
staffing — you can't
make up $6 million by not buying paper," Streifer said. "If that
happens, we know we won't be able to maintain our class sizes, we know
there will be a loss of staff."
Plainville Superintendent of Schools Kathleen
Binkowski has directed
her business manager to build a spending plan with zero-based
budgeting, reviewing every expense in every school.
"I know people don't like to hear about student
pay-for-participation fees — but these are things the parents
suggested," she said.
may cut back on plan for seniors
By Neil Vigdor
Article Launched: 10/31/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
Concerned about the fiscal ramifications for the
town and that there
might not be enough money to go around, the Board of Selectmen is
leaning toward scaling back a proposal to expand senior property tax
Instead of raising the annual income cap from
$39,000 to $65,000 for
the program, a ceiling of $60,000 was settled on Thursday as selectmen
took up the proposal for the second time in as many weeks.
The board also expressed its reluctance to include a
provision in the
town's elderly tax relief ordinance that would increase the total
amount available for property tax credits from the current $1 million
by $250,000 yearly, favoring that any increases be tied to the consumer
price index for the area.
Selectmen also balked at a request that the town
offer seniors the
option to defer their property taxes until after they die, until the
cost of the measure, which some have estimated at $7 million annually,
could be determined.
"I don't think anyone can argue with the virtues it.
(But) we don't
know the fiscal impact," First Selectman Peter Tesei said of a deferral
Such a provision would allow participants to put off
paying their taxes
to future years, usually at an interest rate of 4 percent to 6 percent.
The town would be reimbursed for deferred money when the resident sold
his or her home or dies.
Town resident Frank Manley, who isn't eligible for
the program himself
but has taken an interest in the issue, told selectmen that a deferral
option would be more advantageous for the town because it would
eventually recoup the taxes, unlike with credits.
"If you do a tax deferral, you get it back in three
to seven years,"
Manley said. "I think for many seniors in town the tax deferral would
be the preferable option rather than a small amount of tax abatement."
Some officials pointed out that it would be hard for
the town to
predict its revenues with a deferral option, and that it could be
forced to borrow money in the initial years of the program to offset
"It's a cash-flow issue," said Sam Deibler, the
director of the
Commission on Aging.
A lien would also be placed on the property of
someone who defers their
taxes, town officials added.
Currently, residents 65 and older can receive up to
$1,700 worth of
local property tax credits under the program, which uses a sliding
income scale to determine the amount of relief granted. Local credits
can be combined with other vouchers from the state and
veterans-assistance programs to save some property owners as much as 75
percent on their local tax bills.
Under the new proposal, the amount of credits would
go up to $1,900 for
seniors in the lowest income bracket, which would include anyone
earning less than $24,000 a year. The current ceiling for that income
bracket is $18,000.
At the top end of the scale, for which the incomes
proposed are from
$50,000 to $60,000, a $500 credit would be available under the program.
The number of seniors eligible to receive assistance
is expected to
double if the changes go into effect, which requires the approval of
the selectmen, the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the
Representative Town Meeting.
Assessor Ted Gwartney cautioned that $1 million
might not be enough to
cover all the applicants and that some might be turned away by his
Since it was introduced in 2000, the current program
has experienced a
steady decline in the number of seniors participating in it, leading
several elected officials to call for changes.
About $590,000 in credits was awarded from the $1
million allocated by
the town for the program last year. About 600 property owners received
the tax credits.
The Board of Selectmen decided to postpone its vote
on the proposal
until 10 a.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, to allow town lawyers to include
a provision opening up the program to residents with disabilities who
are under 65 and meet the income requirements.