The will have to meet again tonight to conclude a vote on the town’s Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget, but the body pruned the $149 million Board of Education budget by $250,000 Monday and cut a $27,810 line item from the H. Smith Richardson Golf Course’s allocation.
The two motions -- which account for 0.1 percent of the overall budget -- transpired within three hours of deliberation, during which the existing $273 million combined town and school operating budget was voted down in a 20-29 vote.
Before discussion on the vote began, RTM moderator Jeffrey Steele, R-2, looked back on the process that lead the town to the final step of the budget process.
“There has been a lot of debate and emotion about the budget…probably the most in recent years,” he said, referring to the April 30 RTM budget hearing that elicited passionate public comment.
RTM Majority Leader David Becker, R-1, opened the night by addressing fellow RTM members and the public on the future of the budget and the loss of an opportunity to “implement structural reform” to the budget approval process.
“We need to act quickly to stop $10-million-a-year increases…the RTM needs to break the cycle,” he said. “Tonight’s vote is the beginning of what we hope is a fruitful conversation about budget reform.”
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Following the rejection of the Board of Finance-approved budget presented to the RTM, Becker acknowledged and moved to reduce the school budget by $250,000, or .17 percent, instead of the proposed $2.9 million cut.
“I do think in the long run we need to cut down increases,” Becker said. “I’m very comfortable that this won’t be a service-level type of reduction…I think we need to leave it at that at this time.”
Ed Bateson, R-3, agreed. “I think we can live with this.”
Some representatives argued for keeping maintaining the school budget as presented by the Board of Finance. Hal Schwartz, D-7, contended that the cut $250,000 from the school budget in March and the later restored it.
“I’m not sure we can saw we know better than the Board of Finance,” Schwartz said of the decision to maintain the education budget as is.
Josh Garskof, D-5, warned that any cuts to programs would likely never make it back into future school budgets, like last year’s reductions to middle school Spanish classes, middle school junior varsity sports teams, and late bus routes for the high schools.
“Who knows what permanent cuts we’ll make, cuts that will never come back.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Title said he could not “hazard to guess” what the $250,000 reduction would translate to in terms of services or programs cut, but he will likely make recommendations to the Board of Education similar to the ones he made last year, like
The motion to trim the school budget carried 27-21, with one abstention.
The body’s final act before adjourning was to cut $27,810 from the budget, which will put off the replacement of a 1991 mower.
Joe Palmer, R-4, who proposed the cut, said he had spoken with Director Gerry Lombardo prior to the meeting and that Lombardo “seemed comfortable” with the idea.
“We will make do, but we’d prefer not to,” Lombardo told the RTM, explaining that the mower is often “in the shop getting fixed.” But Lombardo did not believe golf course maintenance would be compromised for the season if the proposal carried -- and it did, in a 34-14 vote.
The RTM will meet at 8 p.m. tonight in the large gym at to discuss and vote on the rest of the budget.