Town meeting vote on 2012 budgets will be on May 20
Mill rate could go up to 14.27KENT — About 55 taxpayers turned out for the budget public hearing on Friday, May 6. The total proposed budget for education and municipal spending for 2011-12 fiscal year is $10,678,150.Municipal budget up 3.37 %First Selectman Bruce Adams presented the selectmen’s proposed operating budget of $2,734,752, which is a 3.37 percent increase over this year’s budget. The fiscal year begins July 1. Adams pointed out several key changes in the budget, including the 3.5 percent pay increase for all Town Hall employees. He said the employees are being asked to increase their contributions toward their health benefits. Adams also noted that the town expects to have to pay for health insurance for the new land use officer. The former land use officer, Jennifer Calhoun, did not take health insurance.One audience member asked about an increase in the line item for contingencies. It rose from $10,000 to $25,000. Adams explained that the extra money was added to “make possible payroll department adjustments midyear if necessary.” These adjustments would be used to pay employees for any extra time spent on the job.As an example, he explained that Town Treasurer Barbara Herbst is working more hours than she was hired for, due to the elimination of an assistant’s position last year. Herbst is now doing the assistant’s duties.Education spending up 3.48 %Board of Education Chairman Tracy Horosky then presented the proposed education budget of $6,446,941, which includes Kent’s portion of the Region One School District budget. The Kent Center School portion of the budget is $3,876,307, a 3.48 percent increase over this year’s spending plan.Salaries for teachers at the elementary school rose by a total of $81,607. Part of this is due to contractual 2.6-percent raises. Also, a math intervention position that had been cut several years ago was added back in.Horosky also noted that health insurance costs for the teachers will be lower in the coming fiscal year by $11,305, due to a change in insurance provider.The line item for textbooks increased $8,000 to $15,000. This year, grades two through four got new textbooks. Next year the textbooks for grades five and six will be replaced.Fire department fundingAbout 15 members of the Kent Volunteer Fire Department attended the meeting to show their support for the reinstatement of flat funding for the department.The Board of Finance had originally approved a capital plan that flat-funded the fire department at $175,000 per year. This plan was designed to help the department strategically replace its equipment. But when Engine 5-0 was destroyed in a brush fire this spring, the Board of Finance revised the town’s capital plan, removed the flat funding for the fire department and changed the plan for buying new equipment. An aerial truck had been next on the list; it got pushed back and a replacment for Engine 5-0 was made the top priority.Directly after the hearing, the Board of Finance held a special meeting in order to make changes to the budget.Following the public hearing, the board voted to reinstate the flat funding but at $125,000 instead of $175,000.The board also added $1,500 for the Historic District Commission.The final total budget that will be sent to town meeting vote is $10,814,650.To offset these additions, the Board of Finance voted to use $400,000 from the undesignated general fund to help keep the mill rate down. The board had originally planned to use $350,000 from the fund.The board also made an adjustment to the revenues section and increased the amount expected to come from federal, state and local grants. With these changes and a slight shift in funds from the capital fund, it is expected that the mill rate for the coming year will be 14.27. This year the mill rate is 14.02.Taxpayers will be asked to vote on the spending plans at a town meeting on Friday, May 20, at 8 p.m. at Town Hall.What is a mill?The mill rate determines property taxes in Connecticut towns. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A 15-mill tax rate would translate into a tax bill of $1,500 for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000. The grand list is the total assessed value of all taxable property in a town.