A zero-increase budget doesn’t typically cause uproar or much cause for dispute among taxpayers, so not surprisingly, few citizens unaffiliated with a town board, committee or commission attended the public hearing on the town budget Thursday.
The general government budget was presented to the audience and Michael France, the finance committee chairman, explained how the committee balanced a zero-increase budget despite having approximately $400,000 difference.
France said the school board transferred $200,000 to the town’s general fund and the rest of the difference came from
The school board, however, had the difficult task of , which was largely due to the loss of a one-time federal grant and .
The school board was able to make some reductions in areas not related to personnel accounts but a lion’s share of the .
“I think we have to come to the realization and start working on fellow citizens that either taxes are going to have to increase or other sources of revenue are going to increase, said Stephanie Calhoun at the public hearing. “Because it’s wonderful that we have a zero this year but I don’t see how we can sustain that zero.”
Town council chairman Sean Sullivan didn't see it the same way.
“I’ve heard the theory many times that holding the line on tax increases only puts off the day of reckoning and someday you’ll get a big tax increase,” Sullivan said. “Quite frankly I subscribe to a completely opposite theory, which is that there’s no reason to pay tax money this year if you don’t have to. We’ll pay when we have to but not until then.”
The school board held a public hearing on its budget ealier this year where parents voiced their objections to the initial cuts proposed by the board. That meeting made a big impact on the school board, according to the board's finance committee chairwoman Michelle Hinton. She said the meeing informed the board where the parents stood insofar as what they want from a school district.
Hinton said frankly that the school board has made due with zero or close to zero increase budgets for five years and, “I’m just going to put the thought out there that we may not be able to do that any longer.”
The one and only Ledyard resident of voting age who was not a town employee or volunteer said he didn’t object to the budget but took issue with an increase without results.
“I would pay more if we had more,” said Dean Peluso who said he’s not opposed to purposeful tax increases for infrastructure or services. “Otherwise, why am I here?”