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Selectmen, BOE Proposing Budget With 2.17 Percent Increase [With Poll]

Board of Finance will now take a look. But first? Town residents are invited to have their say at a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Polson. Now is your chance, town officials want to hear what residents think.

 

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

Charles February 17, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Unfortunately it is probably too late and we will be purchasing an artificial football and baseball field. The football crowd was very vocal last night and seemed to bully the BOS much like Dr. McCullough and Mr. Scarpati bullied their way to a swamp and a senior center. However, why the town needs an artificial surface softball field for the summer beer drinking league is just a slap in the face. All we can do is vote NO.
Drew P February 17, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I will be voting NO as well
Madison Man February 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Well I have read through all of the messages, and I have a few comments: 1) Not once did anyone reference COLA, Cost of Living Adjustment. I am sure many are familiar with this number, accurate or not (there may be varying opinions), it is the federal number that is used to adjust cost of living from the previous year. For 2012, the Federal COLA is 3.6%, a good indicator that it will cost 3.6% more this year than last for the same goods and services (including labor). So a 2.17% BOE increase is pretty good indicating a reduction (yet small) in budget in 2012 numbers. 2) The Strong Field is not only for football, There are many sports that currently use the field and once it is turf, it can be used for a multitude of events. You cannot use the current maintenance figures to judge how much it costs to upkeep, because frankly, the field is a wreck, and not kept up as needed for safe use. And with such a gem in our town, the new field could actually be a revenue generator, hosting any number of events including high school state playoffs and championships.
Madison Man February 17, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Continued: 3) We don't need to be closing schools just yet. What we need to do is increase the enrollment. This town needs families to survive. We need families to move into town and consume the goods and services it has to offer. Families contribute more. This addition to the tax base is needed for long term survival of our town and lets us preserve our charm. 4) The state contributes a laughable abount of state funding to our school system, I don't have the numbers but I think we are in the bottom 5 per student funding by the state. An increase here would lower the tax burden on us all. Overall, don't base your decision on the budget on one item, have an open mind and see what it represents as a whole. I personally don't like everything in it either, but as a whole, it seems to make sense to make sure the town continues to operate, sustain our way of life, and protect our valued charm.
BL Davis February 18, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Madison Man: There are a lot of people in Madison who don't understand the economics of this town, and have misinfomed you that families pay their way in town. First, please be aware that the cost of our Schools constitutes about 71% of our Budget. Second, the cost in Madison to educate one child for the 2010-2011 school year is $14,723 ( The 2011-2012 Education Budget of $50,279,059 divided by 3,415 which is the enrollment for 2011-2012.) The Town Budget is about 29% of the Total Budget. The cost per taxable property of the Town Budget is $2,602 (The 2011-2012 Town Budget of $20,441,981 divided by 7,857 which is the number of taxable properties) Therefore a family with one child in the school system would have to pay property taxes of $17,325 to just cover their own cost to the Town of Madison – and that means they would have to own a home with a market value of $1,273,897. A family with two children in our schools would have to pay property taxes of $32,048 and own a home with a market value of $2, 356,470 to cover just their own costs. And that family with 6 children? That family would have to own a $6,686,765 home. This is not to say Madison should not want families. It is to say that families for the most part do not pay for themselves. It is the empty nesters and the seniors who pay more to the Town than they use in services provided by the town. We need to keep a balance of families, empty nesters, seniors.
Janet February 18, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Madison Man... The reputation of the Madison school system should be enough to attract families to town-- but such is not happening. Enrollment is declining all around CT especially in the wealthier towns-- the only towns that seem to be growing are those towns who attract many families who are on the lower income end. So I don't know how Madison would go about attracting more families. Also, I am sure the thousands of unemployed or underemployed would be thrilled to get a 3.6% COLA increase, along with very generous pensions and health care benefit plans. And even if the salaries of those who remain employed by our school system go up by the 3.6%, the current and projected enrollment numbers do not justify the sheer number of people on the school payroll. I don't know why there is even push back on this... look at the staff roster against the falling number of students, and you will see that the cuts do not even scratch the surface of what needs to be done. And I am not even asking that it be done this year... I am asking to see a five year plan from the Board of Ed that intelligently and practically addresses what is a continuing downward trend in enrollment...and our BOS and BOF should be asking for the same thing if they are truly representing the taxpayers of this town.
Drew P February 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Families are moving out of town because taxes are too high!
BL Davis February 18, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Drew:P: Why are taxes too high? Because we keep making economic decisions without looking at the implications, such as spending $9.2 million (plus interest) on the Griswold property, almost half of which is now controlled by the state for grants of $500,000. More ball fields are slated for the Town's half even though the number of school age ball players is declining.. The BOE spent years on expensive studies figuring out what to do with Academy School. The first of 4 studies was in 1997, and finally the BOE turned Academy over to the Town a couple of years ago. So here we are 15 years later with the Town commissioning yet another study instead of putting the property on the market and allowing it to become an income producer for the Town. The demographics now clearly indicate that another elementary school can be closed – but, no, the BOE won't face the reality just 3 years from now of only 138 students at Island, 138 at Ryerson and 201 at Jeffrey. Far below capacity and guidelines. Then there is the $3.5 million proposal for a grand new Strong Center -- a beautiful project which would indeed turn a dilapidated town asset into a class act. How did our elected officials let this property deteriorate? Where was LoCap for the maintenance of the Surf Club? The Strong Project was supposed to be funded entirely by donations, but its taxpayer reserve funds that are on the table to start.
Janet February 18, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Pem, I hope they do read these comments, especially Barbara's last one, but I have to say that I feel that they have not been open and willing to address these comments with meaningful thought and responses. I feel they brush off these criticisms as the rantings of the disgruntled minority. Well this "minority" who is not satisfied with the lack of a plan for closing a school and consolidating staff, or with the unwillingness of our officials to question the status quo, needs to make sure we go out and vote no to the budget increase. Make them rethink it. Barbara is right about the maintenance... Where has it been happening? Certainly not in the Surf Club bathrooms, where the toilet seat size does not even match the bowl... What an embarrassment to our town!
Susan Wivell February 19, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Thank you, Tom, for those clarifications. While some of these facilities do exist on the premises, they are located INSIDE the middle school and are only accessible if the gym lobby is open to the public. Because of rising costs/concerns with vandalism, extra security and liability, access to school facilities is not available unless by default (i.e. basketball games) or if deemed absolutely necessary. Providing indoor plumbing and hot concessions at outdoor sporting events, including high school competitions, currently does not qualify as 'absolutely necessary'. Spectators and athletes at DHHS & Polson games held on the turf/track, baseball field, upper field hockey field or softball fields do not have access to real bathrooms or concessions (again, unless there is an indoor event occurring simultaneously). Your suggestions for improving the DHHS Turf area to accommodate the high level of use it gets would be well-received by those who spend many hours there! However, let’s not sway the focus on how important the upgrade to the Strong Field is. While I am absolutely a proud parent of football players, my children have also played many other sports and I whole-heartedly supported/support all of them. The Strong Center project will benefit SO much more than football!
Jon February 21, 2012 at 05:08 PM
ABSOLUTELY VOTE NO, NO WAY, NO HOW!!!!!!!!!!! S-CUBED = STOP SPENDING STUPID!!!! The budget should be CUT, not increased. Enrollment is down, some teachers are getting let go in some of the schools (sure not the good ones, thank you tenure). The town overpaid for oil soaked swampland, (sorry the precious land near Long Island Sound where Madison will attempt to dump more money). Thank you Duo Dickenson. More money for pathetic fighting of zoning issues that are already within the laws on the town's books - frivolous lawsuits galore. Enough! VOTE NO, no matter what budget is approved. Residents should take a page from the Westbrook, CT budget - CUT!
Carolyn Rotermund February 21, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I will be voting YES!
Matt February 21, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Do you have some logical reason why that would care to explain?
Herb February 21, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Regarding the maintenance of the present Strong field and its current status, Harold Strong left a $1,000,000.00 fund for the continued maintenance of the basic field. There is nominally $400,000.00 left. How about a written detailed accounting of how these funds have been spent. We're talking about $600,000.00, PLUS the investment yield, that I think the citizens of our town have a right to know EXACTLY where these monies went. Further, I think many would like to know how this fund was invested, and exactly how much did the fund yield? This information should be published so the taxpayers know without having to dig for the facts.
FODMadison February 22, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Is there going to be an arena football team?
Janet February 22, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Herb, it seems we the taxpayers have to dig for a lot of facts... for example, I hear that the BOE commissioned a study on the school enrollment decline and facilities use. It's in their minutes that such a study was completed. Where are the results of that study published? What are the action steps to be taken as a result? or was it merely a waste of taxpayer money? And has anyone looked at the minutes for our various meetings on the website? Talk about "top line".. there are no recordings of any actual discussions.. just that such and such topic was "discussed". I hope that the Source and the New Haven Register are taking notes on some interesting investigative story ideas from these posts... although I haven't seen much investigative reporting out of the Source up to now.
Mike Atkins February 22, 2012 at 10:57 AM
So we vote the BOE, the BOS, and the BOF into office and they can't make a decision without a "study". How many "studies" have we paid for for Academy school?
Janet February 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Studies might not be so bad if they ever turn them into an action plan. I really hope some new blood runs for office in this town.
Drew P February 22, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Couldn't agree with you more! McPherson is a waste and is destroying this town
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:50 PM
But the tenure kills this town, it is an anvil around the neck. VOTE NO! THEY SHOULD BE WORKING TIGHTER! THEY SPEND TOO MUCH!
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:54 PM
VOTE NO! Let the bozos go back to the table and come up with something realistic, maybe CUT THE BUDGET BY 8%
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Beaches will come back. Stupid decisions wont - buying the land across from the Cohens bagels
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Yes. Let's VOTE NO
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Mike, Vote NO! Let them go back to the drawing board and come up with a clear budget, not one that keeps increase and for no apparent reasons.
Jon February 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
and the town overpaid for swampland because of the fraudulent numbers of Duo Dickenson.
Jon February 29, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I think Madison will have it's own circus. Oh wait they do, it's the police dept.
Justin Syder February 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Caution when you ask for cut from the budget. McPherson has a history of cutting public safety first! The last thing we need is cuts in the public safety sector
Janet February 29, 2012 at 08:45 PM
This is their ploy Justin... Tell us that if you don't approve our bloated budget, we'll have to sacrifice safety, sports programs... Which they know are "hot buttons". But we can't let that stop us from making them go back to the drawing board. They should have asked each dept to come in with what a 5% cut would look like... And then go from there to set priorities...
Justin Syder February 29, 2012 at 09:50 PM
We know the priorities for Mr. McPherson. Wildlife before human life-isn't that why we bought the Griswold Swamp?
tom March 06, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Barbara your POV relative the value families bring to town is one dimensional...how much do they pay un taxes and how much do they consume in direct services. I think you are far to intelligent to truly believe the economics are that simple. How many businesses in town would close if families packed up and left the town to those on fixed incomes. How many people started businesses and hired town folks purely because they were raising families in town. How many volunteers, including boards and commissions, are staffed by parents. If they were not there how high would our costs go because the town would need to hire people to staff the positions that are currently purely volunteer. I have seen the comments here about fuzzy math, well your simple math doesn't cut it either. Families combined with homes without school age children create the vibrancy and character of this town, without the combination reduce your home values by 30-40%. talk about about the sucking sound of your personal "savings"....

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