CANTON — There will be several relevant meetings this week as local officials continue to grapple with how to refine their 2017-18 budget plans in light of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal that includes steep cuts in state aid.
With recent budget proposals by Schools superintendent Kevin D. Case and Chief Administrative Officer Robert H. Skinner, the town, under normal circumstances, would be looking at a very preliminary budget of $38,264,351, an increase of 1.87 percent, which would result in a .22 mill rate increase, impacting the “average” taxpayer $53. And those numbers would likely be trimmed even more after further scrutiny by the boards of education, selectman and finance.
However, this year is much different from most. The boards of education and selectmen are still reviewing the respective proposals but more importantly, the town is grappling with how to prepare for cuts proposed by the governor and whether the state legislature will restore some or all of the funding. At a recent “super board” meeting, Skinner told town officials from various boards that the governor’s reductions in state aid, combined with some additional expenses and other changes, would result in a revenue reduction of $2,117,067 for the fiscal year.If everything else were to stay the same, that average taxpayer, whose home is assessed at some $238,000, would be looking at an increase more along the lines of $707 under the governor’s plan.
Officials are hopeful that the state legislature will take action and, this week, will receive an update from state Sen. Kevin Witkos and state Rep. Tim LeGeyt. Both officials will be in town Wednesday night to provide updates – first at a Board of Education budget hearing and then to the Board of Selectmen.
The BOE hearing will also give the chance for the public to weigh in on Canton superintendent Kevin D. Case’s proposed 2017-18 budget of $25,629,086, which would represent a $462,388 or 1.84 percent increase in spending over 2016-17 levels. That proposal came before the governor’s announcement and even so Case said it was a challenging process with a $1-million plus increase in “fixed costs,” a state law stipulating that towns keep total budget increases under 2.5 percent and $1.6 million in administrator requests.
“This has been one of the most challenging budgets I’ve put together in my 10 and a half years in Canton,” Case said.
Among the cuts in the proposed budget would be the reduction of 12 full-time equivalent positions in non-certified staff. Case said specific positions have yet to be determined but those would include positions such as paraprofessionals and tutors.
“It’s a hard decision because we are not over-staffed by any means,” Case said. “These are valuable staff members – very, very difficult decision for me.”
Case added that he hopes, that through attrition, to avoid – or at the very least minimize – layoffs.
Other savings were found through grants, open choice funding and some savings in this year’s capital improvement funding dollars.
The budget does include a few new positions such as an additional kindergarten teacher, a .2 full-time high school world language teacher due to increasing Spanish class sizes and a .25 percent capstone coordinator to oversee senior project initiatives.
On the town side, Canton Chief Administrative Officer Robert H. Skinner has proposed a town 2017-18 spending plan of $10,589,284, an increase of $252,200 or 2.44 percent over approved 2016-17 spending levels. To get to the $38.2 million proposal would be after adding it Board of Finance costs, which include debt service, to Case’s and Skinner’s proposals. Again, those numbers would not be final even without the uncertainty at the state level.
The Board of Selectmen will continue to discuss that proposal and what action to take based on the governor’s proposal, as well as direction from the legislators and Board of Finance, which was due to meet Tuesday evening.
The Board of Finance meeting is at 7 p.m. in Room F of the Canton Community Center, 40 Dyer Ave., Canton.
The Board of Education hosts its hearing at 7 p.m. in the lower level of the Canton Community Center, on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The Board of Selectmen meeting takes place at the same time, in Room F of the community center.