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The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) took the advice of its committees when voting for the 2012-'13 budget package this week, approving a $96.5 million budget that bumps the tax rate up by 0.68 mills to 24.95 mills, a 2.8 percent tax hike.
Weeks of work in committee included the RTM Education Committee's efforts to find further cuts to a Board of Finance (BOF)-approved 2.5 percent year-to-year school budget increase. The committee cut $100,000 to create an annual increase of just under 2.3 percent. The committee's recommendation was unanimously approved by the full RTM on May 8 as part of the budget vote. With that decision, the 2012-'13 school operating and capital budget was set at $50,735,804.
Prior to the vote, Board of Education (BOE) Chair Frank Carrano noted for the RTM that the BOF had sliced $300,000 from the originally proposed school budget on its way to the RTM Education Committee. Carrano cautioned cutting a further $100,000 would affect needed advancements including more school-based Pre-K and adding world languages to the town's 4th grade curriculum. He also noted Branford had just learned it will be receiving a $65,000 state benefit from the recently approved Education Reform Act. Carrano said that money that will go to the town, not the BOE, next year, and asked the RTM consider the $65,000 as an offset against the need to cut $100,000.
"A cut of even $100,000 is going to force the board to have to look very carefully at our ability to move forward…There is very little in the budget that we can reduce," said Carrano. "It's $100,000, but its $100,000 on top of $300,000 that is going to have the consequences."
On the town side of the budget, RTM committees cut away $15,000 in spending to approve a 2012-'13 government budget of $45,794,876.
Combining schools and government, the official total figure approved for the Town of Branford 2012-'13 budget is $93,530,680. By charter, the Board of Finance will next vote to officially set the new tax rate, which will become effective with the new fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012.