HISTORY:  LAST BUDGET SEASON (FY'08-'09)...click here

FY 09-10

Lots of reports related to the budget at the October 20th Board of Education...and more on bus routes and schedules (official copy) November 17 Special Board of Ed meeting.

CHANGE IN DATE!!!  Board of Finance meets Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 8pm at Town Hall (we assume) to act on budget!



First, the draft budget scheduleNOTE:  Board of Selectmen to suggest modifying date to Tuesday, April 21, 2009 for ATBM,  DONE .
Next, this October's enrollments; estimates and projections;  and then, K-5 history and class size report.
Some budget assumptions...

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!


Board of 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 community...

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 until June).

Multiboard discussion 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 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 works-in-progress.

Joint meeting: Weston boards cautious about budgets       
Weston FORUM
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 said.

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 year.

Town budget

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 by $318,000.

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 said.

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 pension increases.

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 items.

The estimated increases were offset by $38,000 from a projected workers’ compensation reduction and expiration of a planning and zoning consulting contract.

School budget

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. Belair said.

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 next year.

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 income.

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 mill rate.

Not acceptable

After listening to the town and school budget proposals, Mr. Muller said a 3% increase was not necessarily acceptable in light of the tough economic times.

“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 and 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...


Tight money: School Systems Around State Being Warned About Spending
The Hartford Courant
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 spurring local 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 books now.

"It's prudent for towns to plan very conservatively. The governor 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 community's school 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 said Friday.

"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 activity fees, pay-for-participation fees — but these are things the parents suggested," she said. 

Selectmen may cut back on plan for seniors
Greenwich TIME
By Neil Vigdor
Staff Writer
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 relief.

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 program.

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 losses.

"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 office.

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.