The Town Council adopted a $62.9 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which included an additional $241,000 for the Board of Education and improving the school buildings, in front of a packed crowd Monday night.
In a 6-3 vote with the Republicans (Frank Szeps, Catherine Vargas and Nadine Bell) voting against it, the council adopted a budget of $62,854,027, which is about a 5 percent increase from The proposed tax rate was set at 25.9 mills per $1,000 of assessed property value, an increase of 1.4 mills.
Before public comment was heard, Deputy Mayor Timothy Moriarty made a motion to and $81,000 to the Capital Improvements Budget. The motion passed with Councilor Barbara Surwilo abstaining from voting.
Moriarty said he received several phone calls and talked with residents and councilors of both parties where by a majority vote the council cut the Board of Education budget by $250,000. He said he reconsidered his position and agreed the town needs to consider mainstreaming some items such as the IT and finance departments as well as looking at where the money is being spent.
"It is not easy sitting up here trying to make everyone happy to provide the services that the citizens of Rocky Hill expect but keeping the taxes in a place where people can afford them," he said.
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The council approved a Board of Education budget of $30,193,935 Monday night, which is virtually the by in the middle of January. The council cannot make any line items changes to the Board of Education budget and can only set the amount.
Seniors, parents, children and residents filled the Council Chambers where it became a standing-room only affair.
Melodie Perretto said seniors such as herself want to help fund the school system, however they are on a "fixed income," which makes it difficult.
"We need some assistance," she said. "We don't want to make a burden for you all."
Senior Rich Laria used numbers from the 2010 United States Census to show that the seniors make up 32.44 percent of the total population of Rocky Hill while the school-age children account for just under 16 percent.
Laria said only $207,000 is budgeted for senior programs, which is 0.3 percent of the total budget. He added that the Board of Education budget is almost 50 percent of the total budget and asked if senior programs could make up 1 percent of the town budget.
"Senior citizens of Rocky Hill will be hurt by the increase in the mill rate," he said.
Parents countered the seniors' arguments by saying that a reason people move to Rocky Hill is the "quality school system" and the town needs to invest in it. They added that the children are the "future" of Rocky Hill.
"You can be part of a growing town or you can be a part of a dying town," said resident and parent John Mitchell. "The youth is part of growing town."
Councilor Bell voted against the budget because she said she wanted to see the town focus on maintaining its infrastructure and not enhancing the Silas Deane Highway. She said her concerns with the budget were committing $170,000 per year for the next two years to and about $70,000 in salary and benefits for a recycling coordinator at the .
"We need to prioritize our items in town," she said. "We need to put our needs in front of our wants."
Republican Vargas agreed with Bell and said the were helpful at making the process easier for them to understand. She cited , the school buildings and the town's fleet of vehicles as items that will needed to be addressed in the next five years.
"All of these projects will require a great deal of money," she said. "And some will need attention sooner than later."
Mayor Anthony LaRosa said he took "issue with the discussion on the Streetscape." He added that the town is spending $340,000 of tax dollars to bring $1.3 million back to Rocky Hill residents.
"Rocky Hill taxpayers pay more than $1.3 million to state each year," LaRosa said.
In the end, Councilor Joe Kochanek said he felt the council did a "good" job overall with the budget process.
"We did it the best we could to take care of some of the needs and peoples’ pocketbook," he said.