Guilford board trims budget

Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The Board of Finance voted unanimously Monday night to reduce the town’s proposed 2009-10 budget by $1.6 million, after a $77.12 million request failed at referendum last week.

The new budget cuts $1.18 million from the Board of Education’s budget request and $429,000 from the town’s funding, Board of Finance Chairman Matthew Hoey said.

The total roughly equals the amounts of contractual salary increases for town employees for the coming fiscal year. Officials from both the school district and the Board of Selectmen have said they are in discussions with employees about concessions that could include a wage freeze.

The new budget proposal of $75.51 million includes a projected 4.44 percent increase in the tax rate. The previous proposal would have raised taxes by about 6.9 percent.

Hoey said that it will be up to the Board of Education and Board of Selectmen to determine where the cuts will come from in their budgets.

“It depends on what the unions negotiate,” he said of the possible concessions. “(It will be) either that or the Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen need to come up with cuts somewhere to equal that amount.”

He added that the original budget requests were fairly “skinny.” The town’s original proposal of $27.28 million represented a zero-percent increase over the 2008-09 budget, while the school district’s budget would have risen 3.46 percent from the current level of funding.

“This was not an easy decision for the board to come to and we are cognizant of the sacrifices that need to be made in order to keep services intact,” Hoey said.

The budget failed by a vote of 2,727 to 2,262.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said that the board is looking at all areas of the proposed budget to meet the Board of Finance’s cuts. The school district is in ongoing discussions with the unions about contract negotiations, he said.

“We are continuing to explore every lawful and reasonable alternative,” Bloss said. “The practical difficulty that we face is that many of our (budget) items are immune from being cut by law, such as special ed, or by the fact that we need to keep buildings open, such as utilities and heat, … so the areas where cuts can be made are not limitless.”

Bloss said the board is hoping to make specific recommendations before the next budget referendum.

The town has not yet set a date for a second town meeting and referendum. The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to hold a special meeting Thursday morning to discuss the budget and set a date for a town meeting.

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