The postponed Board of Finance budget public hearing, with presentations from the Board of Education and Board of Selectmen, will be held Wednesday February 13 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Madison Town Campus in Room A.
The Board of Education is seeking a 3.51 percent increase, to $52,434,769 from $50,658,826. The Board of Selectmen is seeking $22,267,000 for the coming year, a 4.95 percent increase over last year's $21,217,817. The total town and Board of Education budget being proposed is up 3.93 percent, to $74,702,000, up from $71,876,644.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said that during the upcoming budget season, the town would like to make improvements in emergency preparedness and in capital reserves. The town also will have to pay more for insurance, and wages, he said.
One priority is rebuilding the town's reserve funds, which are a cornerstone of the town's financial health and one reason why the town has a top rating from all the different rating agencies, McPherson said. "The town's financial health relies upon the reserves," he said. "The Madison model for running a town is not to go out and borrow, but to plan ahead. That has been extremely successful for the town in the past."
When the recession hit, McPherson said, the town started to cut its input into the reserve funds. "We need to build those back up," he said.
In addition, the town's volunteer firefighters need upgraded breathing apparatus, and the town needs to make some improvements to its emergency communication system. The town also wants to stock up on emergency preparedness items that might be needed
"My most fervent hope is that ... we will never need these items," McPherson said. The town also is in discussions with Killingworth and Guilford about the possibility of engaging in some regional cooperation when it comes to emergency shelters, in addition to stocking its own shelter. Having residents also make use of the Red Cross Shelter in Deep River is a possibility as well, McPherson said.
School Superintendent Thomas Scarice said the biggest driver of increases in the Board of Education budget is health care costs and cuts in grants. Cuts in special education grants, along with reimbursements for special education funding has resulted in "big dollars we are losing," Scarice said.
In addition the board would like to implement full-day kindergarten in 2013-2014, want to continue making improvements to its technology plan, and wants to make improvements to its K-4 language arts and math programs.
The full day kindergarten would be implemented in a neighborhood school model at the town's existing elementary schools.
The schools also want to implement a voluntary early retirement incentive program, which is being offered to all eligible certified staff. "Districts go through time periods where it makes sense to do this both for employees and the district," Scarice said. The early retirement incentive is being offered to certified staff, teachers, and administrators. Friday is the deadline for accepting it.
"We will have our final count by the end of the week," Scarice said. "It's a savings for the district, and a nice retirement incentive for employees."
"I have to tell you, we are losing some top quality people through retirement," Scarice said. "Filling their shoes is going to be a daunting task."
Additional security measures are being contemplated at the schools, Scarice said, and a special appropriation of $45,000 has already been approved by the town. "That has been of enormous assistance to the district when it comes to securing our doors," Scarice said.
The Madison Police Department is in the process of reviewing other security measures. A report was initially due Tuesday, but that likely will be postponed due to recovery efforts from the blizzard, Scarice said.
"We are considering a wide range of interventions. A lot of it will involve doing our work in a different way, not all of them carry a price tag. If we go the full distance and look at certain building modifications or other measures, that will cost money, but when it comes to others we can work in tandem with police or town officials to adjust our practices," he said.
If additional personnel is required, the Board of Education will first have to approve that, he said. When asked about armed security guards, a measure being taken by some other school districts in Connecticut, Scarice said that has not been rule out.
"Armed security guards is something the Board of Education has to wrestle with," he said. "We would have to discuss any additional personnel, whether it's a school resource officer, an unarmed officer or any other additional personnel. The police are going to present their assessment first. That was supposed to happen tomorrow, but they are a little busy right now, so that will be postponed," he said. "So, in the next few weeks, the police will present their findings and then the Board of Education will have to make decisions based on that information."
The presentation by the police to the board will be done in executive session, but some of the subsequent board discussions and votes will be open to the public during Board of Education meetings, Scarice said.
After the public hearing Wednesday, the Board of Finance will then review and take action on the budget. On Thursday, March 21, the Board of Finance recommended budget is due. A budget public hearing will be held Monday, April 22 and the recommended referendum date is Tuesday, May 14, 2013. The Board of Finance is scheduled to set the mill rate for the town on Wednesday, May 15.
For additional information about full day kindergarten, here are some resources from the Madison Public School system:
Here is additional information about the budget:
Workshop Schedule (2013)
Approved Budget (2012-13)