Budget's ready for voters

New Milford's proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is ready for the voters to make the final call.

The Board of Finance made some changes April 12, including restoration of a personnel cut at Town Hall.

The town side of the budget, with operating and capital expenses, is now $34.95 million.

The schools' budget is proposed at $57.56 million.

The total budget going May 15 to referendum will be $92.52 million.

A tax increase would be 2.5 percent, with an anticipated mill rate of 25.37 mills -- or $2,537 on every $100,000 of assessed property value.

"We were given a good budget that keeps the tax increase down to 2.5 percent," said Joanne Chapin, the finance board chairwoman. "But the cut of $250,000 made by the Town Council to the town side of the budget is a difficult one. We all feel the town should not be laying any employee off."

Ms. Chapin noted laying off an employee would not result in a cost savings. The town is self-insured, she noted, which means having to pay $546 weekly for up to 73 weeks in unemployment for an employee who is let go.

With the level of business being conducted by the town clerk and the assessor's office up to 2008 standards, the finance board is concerned cuts to such revenue-producing departments would, in the end, hurt the town, Ms. Chapin said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency money is anticipated for funding a Public Works project on Paper Mill Road. That anticipated funding allowed the finance board to take $60,000 from capital expenses and restore $55,000 to personnel.

Mayor Pat Murphy is hopeful voters will approve the budget on the first referendum.

"It's the same tax impact and we can continue to provide good service for our residents," Mayor Murphy said. "It would not be good if a resident came in to discuss their taxes, say, and we didn't have anyone to meet with them."

Wendy Faulenbach, the Board of Education chairwoman, is philosophical about the $250,000 cut in the education budget agreed on by the Town Council and the Board of Finance.

"Obviously, I'm not happy about the reduction," Ms. Faulenbach said. "But this is where things stand. I'm not sure where the cuts will come from. Everything will be on the table."

"But we're absolutely ready to move forward," she cncluded, "and fully support the present budget."

Referendum date: May 15;

Budget total: $92.52 million;

Education: $57.56 million;

Town: $34.95 million;

Tax increase: 2.5 percent;

Tax rate (anticipated): 25.37 mills

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322