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VIDEO: ‘Do Not Cut the School Budget’ was Majority of Requests from Bethel Residents at Board of Finance Public Hearing on March 23

Residents Discussed Many Issues at the Bethel Public Hearing on the 2015-2016 Proposed Budget, March 23

Report by Paula Antolini
March 25, 2015 10:24AM EDT

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Residents Discussed Many Issues at the Bethel Public Hearing on the 2015-2016 Proposed Budget, March 23

The Bethel Public Hearing on the 2015-2016 Proposed Budget took place last night, Monday, March 23, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bethel Middle School Auditorium, 600 Whittlesey Drive, Bethel, Connecticut.

View video of the meeting below (partial):

Residents commented about many issues, the majority of which urged the Board of Finance not to cut the school budget.

Some topics included:

–taxes are too high in comparison with other towns

–Bethel has the second highest equalized mill rate in the area

–proposed budget is $2 million higher than the present amount, request to make it only $1.4 million budget increase, so it won’t change the mill rate

–Bethel Public Library budget and needs, special education costs reimbursements, and operating costs

–a request to not cut the education budget

–the value of the teachers who go through the Bethel education system then remain in Bethel to teach or be administrators

–the value of teachers to students’ overall life experience

–Bethel’s teachers have lowest salaries

–the need for technology in schools

–anxiety producing state-mandated school testing, should go to state level to fight this

–inform state legislators about funded mandates

–no further cuts in school budget

–teacher’s low salaries in Bethel not conducive to teacher-residents accepting teaching jobs in Bethel

–fear that quality of education will go down in Bethel schools if education budget is cut

–the increase in difficulty of putting the budget together this year

–restraint of putting budget together with one less month time frame

–how would the Board of Finance handle $500,000 if they somehow found they had an extra surplus windfall, how would they pass the savings on to the tax payer

–proposal for Bethel road plan and budgeting

–allowing the Board of Education to do the job they were elected to do

–the population changes and projections in other districts regarding students

–people move here for “what we have, not don’t have” such as a police department when we need 911, roads to drive upon, make sure that “we get what we pay for” which is a quality town

–support your town so it remains a safe town to live in

–both sides of budget are important

–town budget also covers school maintenance and school debt load budgets are “joined at the hip”

–put town budget into grand list

–top three drivers of budget are employee health insurance, contracted salary adjustments, and highway department, and related maintenance (salt, sand)

–Bethel is overspent by $90,000 and “burning through overtime” to fix potholes, could likely be approx. $150,000 by the end of the fiscal year

–Affordable Care Act

–car tax

Some of the speakers were: Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker, Bethel Action Committee (BAC) founder and treasurer Billy Michael, former Selectman Phil Gallagher, Bethel resident Bill Hillman, Rockwell school teacher Irene Drake, and more.

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All persons entitled to vote at the Annual Town Budget Meeting which is on April 6.

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Below are photos from during and after the meeting.

(Click on photos to view larger.)

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