Guilford says no to $77.1M budget

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King Register Staff

GUILFORD — Voters rejected the town’s proposed $77.12 million budget for fiscal year 2009-10 at the annual budget referendum Tuesday.

The budget failed by a vote of 2,727 to 2,262. A bonding resolution to spend $810,000 on a new truck each for the Fire and Public Works departments also failed, with 2,603 people voting against the appropriation and 2,365 voting in favor.

But voters approved two bonding items related to school improvements. A resolution to spend $1.55 million repairing the roofs at Guilford Lakes School and Calvin Leete School passed by 3,074 to 1,923 votes, while an appropriation of $998,750 for health and safety improvements at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School passed by a vote of 2,883 to 1,656.

Board of Finance member James O’Keefe said that the budget will now return to the board, where it would likely face cuts. There would then be another town meeting before a second referendum.

The proposed budget would have increased the tax rate by nearly 7 percent. The $27.28 million town budget represented a zero percent increase over the 2008-09 budget, while the Board of Education’s $49.84 million request included a roughly 3.5 rise from the current package.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said that he plans to continue talks on concessions with town unions. Balestracci said that he has been discussing a wage freeze for the coming year with town employees, which not all the unions have agreed to accept.

Balestracci said a wage freeze would save $450,000 on the town side and $1.2 million in the Board of Education’s budget.

“Given the reduced revenues and the negligible increase in the grand list, this is the kind of situation that we’re faced with and we need to consider,” he said. “I think it’s important (to discuss a wage freeze) at this point because I do not want to be faced with a situation where we’re cutting staff or we’re cutting programs.”

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said the board will likely call a special meeting to discuss the budget. He added, layoffs could be part of the discussion.

“I would say that everything is on the table,” Bloss said.

But he added that he was gratified the two bonding resolutions related to the school passed.

“We’ve tried to be as careful as we can be about the buildings and the fact is, these buildings are going to continue to be used as schools indefinitely and we just have to continue to put money into them to keep them up,” he said. “We’ve cut corners for too long,” he said.

The budget last failed at referendum in 2003, when voters rejected it twice before approving it, according to the town clerk’s office.

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