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Light turnout at the polls on April 9 led to the approval of the 2013-'14 Guilford town and education budgets and five capital expenditures. The new $85,369,285 budget represents a 2.61 percent increase over the current 2012-'13 budget and will increase the tax rate by 3.12 percent-up 0.7 mills to 23.06 from the current 22.36 mill rate.
"This is a budget we feel is a fiscally responsible budget," said First Selectman Joseph Mazza.
According to the registrars of voters, 1,447 voted in favor of the budget and 940 voted against. About 15 percent of potential voters headed to the polls.
The Board of Education's budget totals $54,491,186, an increase of 2.98 percent, or $1,577,294 over the current year. The town's proposed budget is $30,878,098, a 1.96 percent increase, or $594,681 over the current year.
The main drivers to the town's budget increase included capital expenditures, funding pensions at the higher levels recommended by the town's actuary, and increasing funds for road reconstruction and maintenance costs. Debt service has decreased by $750,000 due to successful refinancing worth of $18 million worth of bonds. Salary increases are approximately two percent and there is a $79,000 increase in workers' compensation.
The BOE budget includes an additional 1.7 staff positions, more training for technology, and the continuation of the district's in-house autism program, which launched this year. An alternative high school transition program for ages 18 through 21 is in the works for next year, working with Madison and Clinton, proposing to add one half-time administrative position in special education. Two new literacy coaches are included for grades 5 and 6, a new technology integration specialist, and a math position at Adams Middle School is proposed.
Salary, benefits, tuition, and site improvements represent about $1.4 million of the approximate $1.5 million BOE spending increase.
"This budget will allow us to improve performance and move our schools forward," Superintendent of Schools Paul Freeman said.
The capital projects on the town side included three bond resolutions totaling $5,991,000 over a two-year period. The funds will be used for elevation of coastal roads such as Old Quarry, Chaffinch Island, and Tuttles Point; equipment replacement for the Guilford Fire and Public Works departments; and improvements to town properties.
Of the $1.6 million approved bonds on the schools side, $1.3 million is for upgrades including doors and windows replacement at Cox Elementary School for energy efficiency, as well as security assessments, wiring and technology upgrades, and heating and cooling upgrades. About $300,000 will go toward repairing a sidewalk at Baldwin School and reviewing and addressing concerns at the entrances of the public schools.