Guilford taxpayers vote today on reduced budget

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Voters are set to go to the polls today for the second time in a month to decide on a budget for fiscal 2009-10.

A budget proposal of $77.12 million failed at referendum April 21. Since then, the Board of Finance has cut the budget to $75.51 million, and officials have secured pay concession agreements from most town employees.

The Board of Finance reduced the budget for the school district by $1.18 million, and funding for town operations by $429,000. School and town officials said the majority of the reductions would have to come from salaries and benefits.

Last week, the Board of Education announced that it had reached an agreement with the teachers’ union for pay concessions and an early retirement program that are projected to save about $621,000. With additional concessions on raises and health benefit payments from the administrators, secretaries and para-educators, and custodians, the district is looking to account for a total of $750,000 of the $1.18 million cut.

The remainder would come from programming changes and the consolidation of school bus routes, officials said.

The concessions came with an agreement that there would be no layoffs. They are all contingent on the budget passing today.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said that teachers were to receive a contractually agreed upon 2.45 percent raise in fiscal 2009-10. Under the concession agreement, they will receive a 1.22 percent increase, and the payments that come with certain tenure milestones will also be cut by half.

Forcella said he did not know how many people will take advantage of the early retirement option.

“I know we have a significant number of individuals who fall within the age and experience level that they could benefit by this,” he said.

Town department heads and the Guilford Employee Association, which represents workers in departments such as the library and Parks and Recreation, have also agreed to wage concessions that include a combination of reductions in contracted raises and unpaid furlough days.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said that the $429,000 cut from the Board of Finance has been taken out of the budget, and he is continuing discussions with other town unions, including the police and public works employees.

“We were ordered and we did cut $429,000, which is the full amount of all salary increases for the town side for the next fiscal year,” he said.

“All of the unions are different — their missions are different, their conditions are different. We can’t offer unpaid furlough days to the police, fire and dispatchers because then we have to replace them at time-and-a-half,” he said.

Balestracci said that even though contract discussions are still ongoing with some unions, the budget reductions have already been made. Voters will be asked to approve or reject a $26.85 million budget for town operations, a reduction of 1.57 percent over the 2008-09 budget.

The school district’s proposed budget is $48.66 million, up 1.02 percent from the current fiscal year.

Voting is scheduled for today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all five polling locations.

For a list of voting districts by street, visit www.ci.guilford.ct.us.

“I just hope that everyone gets out to vote,” Balestracci said.

“It’s extremely important that we pass the budget this time. I think it would be a disaster for the town if this doesn’t pass this time, because you know we had cut everything down to the bone and we need to get back to running our town,” Balestracci said.

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