The population supports the education budget

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

the city council adds money to the education budget; Forward budgets to referendum


After a contentious public hearing on the proposed budget, the Clinton City Council agreed to add money to the proposed Board of Education (BOE) budget and finalize a proposed budget that would not increase taxes but would increase spending by 4%. The budgets are now going to the referendum scheduled for May 10.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 5 to send a proposed joint budget of $62,148,955, an increase of $2,483,084 or 4.16% to the referendum.

The proposed education budget is $38,772,877, an increase of $983,641 or a 2.6% increase while the city’s proposed budget is $23,376,078, an increase of $1,499,443 or 6.85%.

During the meeting following the public hearing, the council made several adjustments to the budgets.

As night fell, the proposed education budget was $200,000 less, but after soliciting a sum from the public, the city council added $200,000 to the education budget.

The Board also passed a proposal by Board Member Chris Passant to allocate $283,000 to go toward some capital improvement projects from the Unallocated Flat Rate Fund.

Under the proposed budget, the factory price will remain fixed at 29.83. According to City Manager Karl Kilduff, an increase of 0.55 percent was originally expected.

During the discussion about the appropriations, some board members said they were concerned about using an unearmarked fund balance to keep taxes low for fear that looming capital projects would require a large tax jump in the future.

“You will get to a point where that zero could be a 5% increase. You have to consider that option,” said council chair Chris Aniskovic.

This motion passed with council members Passant, Dennis Donovan, Carrie Allen, and Hank Teske while council members Carol Walter and Tom Hollinger voted against the motion.

This is the third time in four years that the tax rate has remained flat. The mill rate fell from 2021 to 2222, Kilduff said, as the properties were revalued.

The city budget was $60,000 higher before the meeting, but Kilduff recommended cuts, which the council passed unanimously.

The cuts the council made to the city portion of the budget totaled $62,000. $10,000 came from a reduction in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, and $52,000 came from a reduction in health care premiums that were projected to rise earlier in the year. The Board of Education is participating in The same insurance programs as the city.In their case, the savings in workers’ compensation insurance premiums had to be applied to an unexpected increase in pension payments, so their savings weren’t part of any budget adjustment.The total Medicare premium reduction for the Board of Education was $150,000 . That’s why the board only returned $200,000 from the previous cut,” Kilduff explained.

tense hearing

Before the council convened to vote on the final changes to the budget, residents crowded the hall in the Town Hall for a public hearing where citizens expressed their thoughts on the budget. Over the course of nearly 90 minutes of emotional and sometimes provocative testimony, 22 separate speakers gave their opinion on the proposed education budget. No one in the audience spoke about the city’s proposed budget.

Fiery passions flared last month when the city council approved proposed budgets at a meeting March 8. At the time, the originally proposed education budget was $350,000 higher.

A motion to cut the Bank of England’s proposed operating budget by $350,000 passed with Republican House members Hollinger, Donovan and Walter, as well as Democrat Teske voting for the cut while Democrats Allen and Passant voting against the proposal.

Supporters of the move argued that the proposal was to reduce the required increase in the education budget and should not be seen as a cut because the education budget was still increasing even with the $350,000 cut.

Members of the public who attended the meeting disagreed overwhelmingly with that message.

By cutting $350,000, speakers argued the board had not taken into account the impact of drivers of change such as inflation or contractual obligations that the BoE could not restructure. Most of those present at the hearing were concerned that the $350,000 cut would not be sustainable for the district.

Erica Gelvin, chair of the Bank of England, said during the hearing that the BoE’s proposed budget was “the result of many months of hard work” and noted that the BoE had unanimously approved the originally proposed budget.

“Members are disappointed that the $350,000 cut was made,” Gilvin continued, before adding, “I respectfully ask for the $350,000 cut.”

Several speakers said they believe Clinton’s education budget is already being funded at a lower level per student than surrounding districts even without cuts by the board and they fear further cuts could severely affect students’ programs or jobs.

“This had to stop,” Karen Goslink said during her speech. “This is a good fiscally conservative budget.”

Meanwhile, BoE member Catherine Staunton said, “Any further cuts will affect students.”

Several of those who spoke mentioned that the Bank of England had already made cuts to its proposed budget, such as board member Peter Nye who spoke of the board having already had to cut multiple jobs.

“What I’m asking is that you trust us to move through this atrocity,” Nye said.

On social media leading up to the public hearing, there was intense debate about the proposed education budget, particularly about the role and salaries of administrators in the district. Heather Moore was one of the speakers who defended the role of officials during the public hearing, particularly Superintendent of Schools Marian O’Donnell.

“I can tell you that the work Marianne O’Donnell and her team have done during COVID will make your head spin,” Moore said.

Every speaker in favor of adding money to the education budget received applause after they finished speaking. However, the loudest cheers of the night came after Cinzia Lettieri reminded the public and city council members that the public can make elected officials pay at the ballot box in November if they refuse to amend the budget.

“If you come after our children’s futures, we’ll go after your seats. Hank Teskey funds our children, Dennis Donovan funds our children, Tom Hollinger funds our children, Carl Kilduff funds our children, Carroll Walter funds our children,” Lettieri said.

As a final show of support, Monique Hunter, president of the Parent Teachers Association, asked all those in attendance who were in favor of adding money to the Bank of England’s budget to stand up, at which point the vast majority of those in the room stood.

Town officials weigh in

After the public hearing, two city council members expressed their displeasure with the tone of some of the speakers.

Donovan said he felt “personally attacked” by some of the speakers’ addresses and that he felt Council members were “being persecuted for doing our job.”

“I’ve been coming here tonight thinking I’ll come right in and give you $200,000 back. But it’s made so bad that you’re all bullying this crew for doing our job. We don’t like it either, you know, sitting here and worrying about losing people,” Donovan said. for their jobs.”

“You know, once in a while I’d like to see somebody say once it’s all over, ‘Hey, good job, City Council;’ You did a good job. All you hear is that we are the bad guys.”

Donovan also prompted some speakers who compared Clinton to other cities, such as Old Saybrook, by noting that Old Saybrook has an education budget of $28 million while Clinton’s has a budget of $38 million.

Councilor Carol Walter, meanwhile, argued that some of the complaints about the education budget were outside the council’s purview. During the public hearing, several speakers spoke of the need to increase the pay rate for paraprofessionals and teachers, which the board has no say in.

“For you to stand there and berate us, thinking that’s the case, is absolutely wrong,” said Walter.

Walter also took issue with a note from some speakers who argued that the city’s budget was being increased by about 7%, but that the education budget was being held to an increase of only 2.5%.

“Comparing the $38 million budget to what the city gets is just a funny argument. The city budget gives you this building, your roads, your police department, your fire department, everything you enjoy here—public works, beach, forests, everything that comes from The other half of the budget,” Walter said.

Walter stated that the city’s administrations are tightly organized with few employees compared to the education budget.

“You have no idea what’s going on on the city side of the budget. Do you want to talk about strict surveillance?” Walter told the audience.

Aniskovitch thanked those who spoke for attending the meeting and declared that perhaps next year, people who get involved in the budget process earlier would mitigate misinformation on social media.

“I wish we could get everyone out to budget workshops; I think that adds a lot of information and reduces the crap of social media,” Aniskovic said to applause from the audience.

After the meeting, Gelvin told the Harbor News she was glad the board added money to the education budget.

“I feel excited about the engagement. It wasn’t done in a unilateral way. We got approval from the board members, and we made a decision as a community, and that reflects the interest of the community,” Gelvin said.

With the public hearing over and the proposed budget finalized, the approval process is now in the hands of the voter.

In about a month, residents will go to the Town Hall for the annual referendum, which is scheduled for May 10 this year. Although the city and education budgets make up the total budget, in the referendum, voters will vote on the city and education budgets separately.

Because voters cast their votes for each budget separately, it is possible for voters to pass one budget and reject the other in the same referendum.

If one or both of the budgets fail, the City Council will review them immediately after the vote. Another public hearing is held the following week, and another referendum is held the week after the public hearing.

Polling will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Town Hall, 54 East Main Street, Clinton, on Wednesday, May 10.