Finance board cuts $100,000 from school budget request

The Board of Finance cut $100,000 from the school budget and about $1,000 from the city budget during the most recent step of the budget process Wednesday night.
The vote stands to save the typical taxpayer $6 next year. It drops the anticipated tax increase from about $150 on the typical house with a market value of $311,070 to $144 on that typical house.
School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser was among a handful of people at the finance board meeting, and she said she wasn’t distressed at all about the $100,000 reduction from the school spending request.
Most of that represented $75,000 for two additional school resource officers: The schools weren’t going to get those officers anyway because the city did not fund the other half of their salaries in the city side of the 2015-16 budget request.
The other $25,000 includes requested funding for The Academy, which is Milford’s alternative education high school. Finance Board member Joseph Castignoli said he didn’t understand the request for an additional $22,000 to reclassify the director’s job at The Academy. Today the director is a part teacher/part director. School officials wanted to make that a full time director job.
“The SROs were already eliminated,” Feser said after the finance board voted Wednesday. “In a $91 million budget, to only see a $25,000 reduction, I’m really appreciative of the fact that the board of finance had confidence in the work we did.”
Several finance board members praised the school board for its budget proposal. The school board asked for a 2.13% increase, from $89.21 million to $91.11 million. The finance board trimmed that to $91.01 million, putting the requested increase at 2%.
“I commend the board for keeping the increase to a minimum,” said Finance Board Chairman Brian Lema.
School officials have said that much of their increase is due to putting the schools back to a K-5 configuration for next school year. The elementary schools are currently arranged in K-2 and 3-5 buildings.
The mayor requested $111.17 million on the city side of the budget, which the finance board left virtually untouched. That marks a 1.87% increase over the current spending plan.
Altogether, the city and school budgets total $202.18 million, which is an increase of $3.8 million over the current year, or a 1.94% increase.
Under the plan, the current mill rate would go from 27.22 mills to 27.88 mills, which is an increase of .66 mills, or a 2.4% mill increase, according to Finance Director Peter Erodici Jr.
Finance board changes to the 2015-16 budget proposal were minimal as the five members went through the plan line item by line item Wednesday night.
Board member Joseph Fitzpatrick asked for a couple of reductions that the other board members did not agree with.
For one, he didn’t want to make the open space manager’s job part of the regular budget. Now the job is paid with money that developers put into an open space account, and paying for the position has to be approved each year.
Fitzpatrick said he wanted it to stay that way.
“I don’t want to see another division formed at this point,” he said.
City officials have been trying for a couple of years to make the job part of the regular city budget, and therefore more permanent, praising current open space manager Steve Johnson for doing a great job and for securing the city a good amount of grant dollars for environmental work.
Lema said he understands Fitzpatrick’s opinion, but thinks the job has evolved into more of a permanent than a temporary position.
Castignoli agreed, saying, “I think it’s well worth it.”
The board voted 4-1 to move the open space manager’s job, at $53,000, into the regular city budget.
Next the budget plan will go to the Board of Aldermen for a public hearing and a final vote, sometime in May.