July 23, 2019

No Changes to Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets After Public Hearing

ESSEX—The board of finance made no changes to the proposed town government and Essex Elementary School budgets after the annual budget hearing last week, sending the combined $14.38 million budget plan to a vote at the annual budget meeting on May 14.

About 50 residents turned out for the April 19 public hearing on the proposed $6,853,640 town government budget and a proposed 47,535,591 appropriation for the elementary school. While there were questions and some discussion, there were no calls for significant changes or reductions in the spending plan.

The town government and elementary school budgets are combined with the town’s $7,701,887 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total proposed $22,090,118 spending levy for 2012-2013. The Region 4 budget, which funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 8. Essex, with more students attending the two secondary schools, faces a $294,943, or 3.98 percent, increase in its share of the total $17.5 million Region 4 spending plan.

The town government budget is up by $221,621, or 3.34 percent. The elementary school budget is up by $131,801, or 1.78 percent. The total proposed spending increase is $648,365, or a 3.02 percent increase over the current combined town/schools appropriation.

First Selectman Norman Needleman, who expressed satisfaction with the apparent positive response to the proposed budget, said this week the spending plan would require an increase in the property tax rate of between five-tenths to six-tenths of a mill. A mill generates about $1.1 million in tax revenue under the current grand list. The current tax rate is 17.98 mills, or $17.98 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Needleman noted the board of finance sets the tax rate after the budget is approved, while adding that he would urge the board to fund a portion of the total $388,117 capital expenditure plan with a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance. The proposed increase in capital funds for the volunteer fire department, road repairs, and parks and recreation, is $126,667.

Needleman noted that using some money from the fund balance for the capital expenditure plan would hold down the tax increase. “The six-tenths of a mill would be the high end but I am hoping it would be lower than that,” he said. The undesignated fund balance currently contains about $2.72 million.

While Bruce MacMillian, the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Needleman in the 2011 election, has requested a referendum vote on the spending plan and a split vote on the town and elementary school budgets, the budget vote on a combined town/elementary school spending total is expected to occur at the May 14 annual budget meeting. A paper ballot vote is expected at the town meeting, though a petition from voters could still force a referendum vote on the budget.

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