At a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the auditorium, the town and Board of Education will present a combined requested budget for 2012-2013 that represents a 2.17 increase of $1,532,605 over the 2011-2012 approved budget of $70,721,038.
Following the public hearing, the budget will go to the Board of Finance, which will then evaluate it. Madison Board of Finance Chairman Jennifer Tung said she is hoping for a good turnout during Thursday's public hearing, so that the finance board can take any input from the public into account while deliberating on the budget. Following a series of public meetings, and another public hearing, the budget is scheduled to go to referendum in May 2012. The schedule of meetings and hearings is posted as a PDF with this story.
The requested budget, as it stands now, includes the following elements:
- the town operational portion of the budget with an increase of 3.01 percent, or $455,386 more than the 2011-2012 approved budget of $15,141,428. In addition, the public schools transportation and health services account would increase 2 percent, or $5,897 over the 2011-2012 budget of $294,802. So the subtotal of operational and private schools will increase 2.99 percent, or $461,283 from $15,436,230.
- the reserve fund portion of the budget with an increase of 10 percent, or $287,909 over the 2011-2012 approved budget of $3,380,770.
- the debt service portion of the budget with an increase of 4.53 percent, or $73,644 over the 2011-2012 approved budget of $1,624,981.
So, with all of those elements combined, the total town of Madison requested budget would increase 4.27 percent, or $872,836 over the 2012-2013 approved budget of $20,441,981.
Board of Education requesting 1.31 percent increase
The school administration, led by interim School Superintendent Anita Rutlin, has submitted a request to the Board of Education for a total comprehensive budget of $50,938,827 for the 2012-2013 school year, an increase of 1.31 percent, or $659,769, over last year's approved budget of $50,279,059.
This includes a total operational budget of $42,106,422, which is an increase of 0.98 percent, or $407,863, over last year's approved operational budget of $41,698,559. Accounts jointly managed with the town (which includes maintenance, health insurance, debt interest and principal) have increased 2.94 percent or $251,905 to $8,832,405 from $8,580,499.
"We have presented a prudent budget that maintains our programs," Rutlin said. One of the biggest factors that came into play this year, as last year, was declining enrollments which allowed for staff reductions without cutting into programs. The administration is proposing eliminating 15 positions. Last year, for the same reason, declining enrollments, 13 positions were eliminated.
Declining enrollment will lead to layoffs at the schools
"One of the most obvious things going on here is the declining enrollment," Rutlin said. "That is why we have a reduction in force [proposed]. This is not just a way to save money, it is due to declining enrollment." For additional information about the proposed school budget, . A letter in support of the budget from Madison Board of Education Chairman Deborah Frey is posted as a PDF with this article.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said that the Board of Selectmen took several things into consideration when deliberating on the proposed budget.
The board expects that health insurance costs will continue to come down, as they do most years, but that the board decided to keep that item at $1,511,330, up from $1,354,351 from last year, for the time being, based on the advice of the town's advisors at this point.
Town's long-term financial health depends on healthy reserves
One goal of the Board of Selectmen was to increase the town's capital budgets, McPherson said. "We have been milking the town's capital reserves for two to three years," McPherson said. "We want to get those back up." McPherson said the depends on maintaining healthy reserves."We can't just keep kicking the can down the road on that," he said.
The selectmen, while devising the current budget, also had to take into account repairs that need to be done following Tropical Storm Irene. The town has estimated that about The town does expect to get reiumbursed, in part, by the Federal Emergency Managemenet agency, but it needs to have money on hand to make those repairs.
Grand list growth of $21.5 million good news for town
As a result, the selectmen opted to keep the town's current undesignated fund balance at healthy levels. That fund currently stands at about $1.4 million, McPherson said.
McPherson said town officials also recently got good news about the town's grand list, which grew $21,563,517 to $3,454,510,510 in 2011. "That was good news," McPherson said. "That represents $425,000 at the current mill rate of 19.63." McPherson said that increase could help reduce the impact of reduced revenues to the town, due to lower interest rates available for money being invested by the town. "We've gone out and have bought some longer term bonds as the old ones mature, but we just can't get the interest rate we want" due to the current state of the market, he said."So this addition from the grand list more than makes up for that."
New engineering assistant being proposed
The proposed budget also takes into account the town's intention to add a new engineering assistant at town hall, to help with the wide array of projects underway. That will cost the town about $50,000, McPherson said.
The selectmen also agreed to add in $35,000 to fund an additional part-time paramedic position. The town's ambulance association had requested $125,000 to fund a full-time position, but McPherson said the selectmen felt that adding another paramedic on a part-time basis was adequate to meet the needs of the town, as the selectmen currently understand them.
A request from the Beach & Recreation department to add a full-time cook and an assistant chef at the town's new Senior Center was not granted, McPherson said.
Proposal to fund new turf field, relocating bleachers from LoCAP
The selectman have also decided to include several long term maintenance projects into this year's budget, including several that will be funded through the town's Long Term Capital Planning funds, also known as LoCAP.
One project that will be partially funded by LoCAP, according to the selectmen's proposed budget, is a new turf field and the cost of relocating the bleachers at the town's Strong Field at the Surf Club, where many of the school's football games and other games are played. The town intends to take $800,000 from the LoCAP fund to pay for a turf field, and to also take another $200,000 from the town's Strong Field fund. The town also intends to put $100,000 towards the relocation of the bleachers, which has to be done at the same time as the installation of the turf.
Remaining elements of the Strong Field project, which include construction of a field house and other ammenities, will be paid for out of a fundraising campaign currently being conducted, McPherson said.
Strong Field supporters encouraged to show up for hearing
"Putting artificial turf at Strong Field has been on the LoCAP list for years, we're just putting it at the top of the list," McPherson said. "We have a wonderful private group that is raising money for other parts of the project, so we are very pleased about that."
The Strong Field group is encouraging its supporters to show up at the budget hearing Thursday to speak in favor of the LoCAP funding for the project. It sent out the following email to its supporters:
We need a few Strong People to come to Polson Gym
7.30pm, Thursday February 16th!
The Budget will be discussed fully, so it will be a full evening - but we need a core group to commit to attending.
The Selectmen have signed off on the Facility Committee's endorsement of LOCAP funding for resurfacing the field, moving the stands and all related costs, but the Strong Center Board needs to facilitate the rest of the project (lighting, the buildings, plaza, fencing, etc.).
We need to support their support!
Here are some facts to buttress that support:
1. None of the bathrooms in the field house or the stands offer any compliance with any aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and although grandfathered in, the ongoing lack of accommodation for those who need it the most is a moral outrage for this crown jewel of our town park system and should be rectified. The Phase 1 proposal of moving the stands has budgetary accommodation for handicapped accessibility and with full fundraising we will be able to create bathrooms with full handicapped accessibility.
2. The Strong Center has obtained almost half a million dollars from individual, group and institutional support, including the Exchange Club, the Shirley French Foundation, Worrell Foundation, Essex Savings Bank, The Neighborhood Assistance Act Program and Madison Youth Football, has realized $70,000 of personal donations for Plaza Stones, and has raised over $60,000 in private events. Additionally, there has been over $300,000 committed in goods and services for the project, including septic (Infiltrator Systems), various building materials, Tech Landscaping, Liguori Plumbing, Anderson Excavating ,and architectural & engineering services. Additionally, there are indications from other private individuals that we can expect more monies in the future if the Town declares its full support.
3. The Strong Center has received the unanimous endorsement as drawn from the Beach and Recreation Commission, endorsement for application for a STEAP grant from the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance, endorsement for fundraising from the Board of Selectmen, and endorsement for LOCAP funding by the Facilities Committee. In every one of these presentations before all of these boards, we have received virtually unanimous support for our work.
4. The Strong Center Committee has never approached the Town asking for any money. The Town approached Strong Center once it was understood that what we contemplated dovetailed with the pre-existing list of projects that LOCAP had been working on, and it was a prime source for potential application for a STEAP grant. The Strong Center has never asked the Town for any funding, but it grateful for all the efforts the Town has made, including Mike Ott's good work as the Town Engineer, and Bill McMinn's ongoing advice.
5. The proposal for inclusion in LOCAP of the resurfacing of the Strong Field was contemplated along before the Strong Center project was even dreamed of, and the repair of the fields is a safety issue that has collateral benefits, but like any other town facility, the lack of safety that is present now and the ongoing expenses for deterioration and lack of widespread use make it the favored project of all those that were under consideration in this annual prioritizing of projects, and if the money is not spent for the fields, it will be spent elsewhere, but this is the top priority that those independent of the Strong Center Board have determined to be worthy of this year's budgeted funding.
Strong Center at the Surf Club Board of Directors