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VIDEO: Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker Discusses the Upcoming Budget

Knickerbocker: “Very very important that people participate in these meetings. We do have a town meeting form of government, that means that you are the legislators.”

Report by Paula Antolini
March 22, 2015 9:22AM EDT

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First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker chatted with Bethel Advocate yesterday and provided his views about the upcoming budget.

First Selectman Knickerbocker said:

“We have two important meetings coming up. Very very important that people participate in these meetings. We do have a town meeting form of government, that means that you are the legislators. So we really want to hear from you and get your input on this.

“So meeting number one is this Monday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. at Bethel Middle School. This will be the public hearing. That’s different than the town meeting. A public hearing does not take a vote. This is your opportunity to discuss the budget with finance. It’s technically a Board of Finance meeting. The Board of Finance is in charge of the budget at this point, but the more feedback they get, the better job they’re going to do.

“Part two is the annual town meeting on the budget. This will be April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Bethel High School. And again, I want to point out the difference. The public meeting is at Bethel Middle School, that’s a new location for this. Then the town meeting, where you DO vote, is at Bethel High School.

“Now about the budget, this budget calls for a tax increase of one percent, which is well below the rate of inflation, taxes are being held a little bit lower, actually quite a bit lower this year, by virtue of the fact that we’ve had a lot of development in town, that is bringing new revenue into the coffers of the town. That’s holding your taxes down. It does still represent a little bit of an increase, and this is critically important if we are going to maintain our roads, address the potholes, have the right kind of teachers, have the right kind of town employees.

“On the town side of the budget there are no new initiatives, no new employees, nothing new, we’re just trying to fix the roads, continue with our 4-year road improvement plan, that puts our roads in better condition so they can survive a nasty winter like we’ve had. And the rest of the budget increases are really coming from things outside of our control. That would be health insurance, contracted services have gone up, and then the rest of it is just materials and supplies, like sand and salt for the roads. Those and fuel prices are the things we have to deal with.

“So I urge everybody to come out, participate in the meetings, and please support both the town and education budgets. They’re joined at the hip. You vote separately but they’re very very close to one another. The school side has the school operating budget, but the town side not only has the town operating budget, but school maintenance, and school debt load. So they’re very important that we support both sides. Thank you very much.”

We asked first Selectman Knickerbocker if there were any new increases in this budged that were not on last year’s budget, or anything that went up significantly. He replied:

“Health insurance and liability insurance are the two biggest drivers, and then behind that is contracted services, and behind that is highway repair. That’s really it. There’s no other, there’s nothing new in there. Basically just trying to do a better job with the services we provide right now and not lose anything. You know, your town is a consumer of goods just like your household is. When prices go up, when it costs more to get your furnaces fixed, when it costs more for salt and sand to fix the roads, when it costs more for asphalt, we have to pay those things too and we have to absorb those increases. That’s why there’s a one percent increase on the tax side this year.”

View video of First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker, below:

The next Public Hearing Budget Meeting is tomorrow night, March 23, 2105, at 7:30 in the Bethel Middle School.

The Annual Town Budget Meeting is April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Bethel High School.

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