With noteworthy speed, the New Milford Board of Finance voted April 6 to send a $91.6 million town and school budget for fiscal 2011-12 to the voters in May.

The six-member board unanimously approved the plan in little more than 20 minutes.

The budget would increase spending for the coming fiscal year by slightly more than 1 percent.

The mill rate -- $1 for every $1,000 of taxable assessed property -- would increase 9.1 percent, to 24.75, up from 22.7 mills. Calculations must be based on the 2010 assessments, most of which are lower than five years ago.

On average, a home valued at $215,000 would have a tax bill of $5,321 annually, or about $19 more than this fiscal year.

Finance board chairman Joanne Chapin called this budget season far less contentious than in past years, crediting the frugality and diligence of all town agencies.

New Milford is in much better shape than other area towns, she said, despite concerns about projected state revenues that are now just "guesstimates.''

Several board members and alternates expressed concern about using one-time revenue, a $700,000 federal grant and $1.5 million from the town's medical reserve fund, to pay for programs and limit taxes. They suggest such planning will simply delay the impact on taxpayers until next year.

School leaders voted to use a large amount of the federal jobs grant to start an all-day kindergarten program this fall, which they consider an educational bonus for children.

A plan has already been formulated to cover the cost of full-day kindergarten in 2012-13 without the grant.

Mayor Patricia Murphy said lower health insurance premiums and benefit payouts for town employees allowed her to reduce the amount the school district and the town had to allocate for medical expenses in 2011-12.

Finance board member Frank Wargo said he believes the town and school budgets are solid and worthy of voter support. He said approves using the federal grant for a program the town might otherwise be unable to afford.

No one in the audience spoke during the April 6 meeting.

In past years, the budget season has been fraught with public debate and contention. This year, there was virtually none.

Mayor Patricia Murphy said she was pleased the Board of Finance recognized the hard work the town and school departments made to submit budgets to have minimal impact on taxpayers "while providing valuable services.''

Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said the education budget to go before the voters in May is the product of hard work and sacrifice for the sake of the taxpayers.

She said full-day kindergarten is a great way to use the federal grant money.

"It's the right time for New Milford,'' opined Dr. Paddyfote.

Board of Education chairman Wendy Faulenbach said this is a good budget and hopes residents endorse it.

Unlike last year when the budget required two referendum votes, Ms. Faulenbach said, "I hope this flies right through the first time.''

"I hope this flies right through the first time.''

Wendy Faulenbach

Board of Education chairman