A full complement of New Milford Board of Finance members voted 6-1 Wednesday to restore $1 million of the $1.8 million cut by Town Council from the Board of Education's proposed $58.73 million budget for 2010-11.

The action brought the combined town and education budget proposal to $91,427,750. That figure will go May 18 to townwide referendum.

Finance board members said Wednesday they felt the $1.8 million cut made by Town Council had been too severe. As Democratic board member Gale Alexander said, "I'm hurting at home, too, but you can't under-spend on something and degrade it to a point where it falls apart."

Republican alternate Bill Bennett's was the sole vote against adding the $1 million back.

The public that voted board members into office had hoped for a better show of faces Wednesday night.

Board chairman Joanne Chapin expected to have a quorum to deliberate and vote on the final town and schools budget.

Just seven days earlier, the board found itself without the requisite number of members to hold a meeting, forcing postponement.

Four board members were absent April 7, some due to an apparent boycott.

"It should never have happened," Mrs. Chapin said Tuesday. "We have to move forward (Wednesday) and get this wrapped up. It's time for the board to sit down and have a frank discussion and come to a decision."

Only Mrs. Chapin, a Republican, fellow GOP member Mark Vendetti and Republican alternate Bill Bennett attended last week's non-event.

All three are considered fiscal conservatives who would want the Town Council's $1.8 million cut of the Board of Education's proposed budget to stand.

The other four -- Republicans Bob Sherry and Larry Tripp, Democrats Frank Wargo and Gayle Alexander -- were absent. They are known to be in favor of reinstating the $1.8 million to restore the education board's original $58.73 budget request.

"I'm upset. It was purely political. I know that for a fact," Mr. Vendetti said, the day after the canceled meeting.

Mr. Tripp had given prior notice he would be away on vacation, and pro-education member Bob Sherry suggested the next day Mr. Tripp's absence would stacked the table in favor of the fiscal conservatives.

He said he decided not to attend because no effort had been made to arrange the meeting time to accommodate Mr. Tripp.

Mrs. Chapin said she had heard Tuesday from Mr. Tripp and Mr. Wargo as well as Mr. Vendetti that they planned to attend Wednesday. It was likely Mr. Sherry would likewise attend.

"I feel strongly that a decision this important should be made by all members of the elected board, especially given the public hearing," Mr. Sherry said.

On April 1, at the finance board's public hearing on the combined town and education proposed $90.42 million budget, more than 300 residents turned out at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

Some 70 spoke, most to request the $1.8 million cut by the Town Council be added back. The hearing was emotional with many education supporters choking back tears.

Were a finance board adjustment not be made Wednesday, the proposed $90.42 million budget would go straight to a hearing and referendum. The annual town meeting is scheduled May 4 at 8 p.m. at New Milford High School.

The referendum date is May 18.

For updated information about Wednesday's Board of Finance meeting, read The News-Times and check www.newstimes.com.