Guilford gives a thumbs up on 2nd try, after spending cut

Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Voters approved a $75.51 million budget for 2009-10 Tuesday, a month after rejecting a higher proposal.

The budget passed by a total vote of 3,103 to 2,429, according to the town clerk’s office. With 36 percent of registered voters participating, the turnout surpassed that of the April 21 referendum, which saw a 31 percent turnout.

The $75.51 million budget is projected to increase taxes by 4.4 percent, to $20.04 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The outcome was welcome news to town officials, many of whom gathered at Town Hall Tuesday to hear the results. After voters rejected a $77.12 million budget that would have raised taxes nearly 7 percent, the Board of Finance cut about $1.6 million from the proposal, resulting in the $75.51 million package.

The funding represents a 0.85 percent increase from the 2008-09 budget.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said Tuesday that the vote represented “The voice of hope and the voice of the future.”

Last week, Board of Education members announced they had reached agreements with all school district employees on pay concessions that should account for about $750,000 of the $1.18 million cut from the district’s budget. Teachers have agreed to a 1.22 percent pay increase for the next fiscal year, half of what was in their contract.

Guilford is the first town in the state whose teachers are part of the Connecticut Education Association to secure pay concessions from employees, Bloss said.

All of the concessions, which also affect custodians, administrators and secretaries and paraeducators, were contingent on the budget passing.

“Everyone partnered in presenting the most reasonable budget possible, including faculty, staff, parents and taxpayers,” Bloss said. “It took some vision and a lot of work, but it balances all of the interests as best as can be done.”

After the first budget proposal failed, 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 employee salaries and benefits.

The town has also reached concession agreements with some employees and is continuing to negotiate with other unions.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said he was “relieved” at the results Tuesday.

“It’s a very austere budget, but indicative of what we need to have for these times,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can to provide the service with the monies that have been approved.”

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