Residents ask that school money be restored to Milford budget

Several residents who attended this week’s Board of Aldermen’s budget hearing asked the aldermen to reinstate funds to the 2016-17 school board budget that the finance board trimmed during its round of budget deliberations.

Resident Michael Brown said “the Board of Finance exceeded its mandate” when it cut the Milford education budget request. The finance board reduced the school budget by $175,000 during its round of deliberations.

Brown and several others told the aldermen that the school board had unanimously approved a conservative budget, with less than a 1% increase over the current year, and suggested the finance board was wrong to trim the spending plan.

“They relied on erroneous hearsay from one member about some buses he said he saw in a Wendy’s parking lot — whatever that has to do with anything,” Brown said.

“I ask this board to restore at least $134,000 cut by the Board of Finance,” Brown said. “I know this calls for a two-thirds vote, but I feel that at least 10 of you care enough about the education of children in MIlford.”

The finance board voted March 2 for a total spending plan for the city and school system of $204,941,392, which is a 1.37% increase over the current budget. During their deliberations, finance board member Joseph Fitzpatrick Jr. (D) initially made a motion to cut $230,000 from the school board’s request, which would have brought the school spending plan to $91,556,950, but that motion failed. Joseph Castignoli (D) suggested a reduction of $175,000 — $50,000 from an energy savings allocation, $40,000 for an additional school resource officer and $85,000 from a natural gas account. That didn’t fly initially but with the board at an impasse, members approved the reduction after several votes.

Resident Tessa Marquis told the aldermen at Thursday night’s Board of Aldermen’s budget hearing that she also thought the school budget reduction was inappropriate, calling the reduction an “arbitrary” figure. She too asked that funds be restored.

Resident Carol Thomas said School School Dr. Elizabeth Feser “is a wiz” at budgets and said Feser presented a fiscally sound budget plan. She and her husband, Bob Thomas, also asked that the aldermen restore school funds.
In other areas
Tami Jackson, director of the Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut, appealed to the aldermen to consider adding money to the budget to help support the center. Jackson said she felt awkward asking for money, but the center, which she said serves many people in the area who need help with the language and integrating into the community, is short of money.

With fund-raising down from previous years, and a reduction in dollars received from the United Way, Jackson said meeting the $95,000 annual costs has become difficult. The center is down $8,000 for the first quarter, she said.

Mayor Ben Blake said it would take a two-thirds vote by the aldermen to add a new grant item to the budget, but he said Jackson’s plea, and her description of some of the people the center has helped, “seemed to win over some hearts.”
Reduction requested
One resident asked for a reduction of funds for a city staff position. Taft Clark Jr., who works for the city, urged the city not to allocate about $35,000 to hire a concierge for the Parson’s Complex. Clark said that when the position has been manned in the past, it created confusion for people visiting the city’s zoning and building offices.

Next, the aldermen will begin reviewing all department requests as they prepare to vote on a final budget package, typically in May.

If nothing changes at the Board of Aldermen level, the mill rate would drop from 27.88 to 27.83 — .05 mill, largely because of anticipated increases in state revenues delivered to the city.

That means that for the typical homeowner, with a home at a market value of $311,070, taxes would go down $11 next year.

Residents can find the proposed budget at the city website,