Norwich adopts $118.5 million budget after effort to add $300,000 to schools fails

Norwich - After an attempt to add $300,000 to the school budget failed, the City Council on Monday adopted a final budget of $118.5 million for the city and its schools, including an additional $132,834 to add two city government positions.

The budget will require a tax rate of 38.55 mills citywide, with taxpayers in the central city paid fire district paying an additional 7.38 mills. Taxpayers in the volunteer fire districts will pay an additional 0.49 mills.

Those totals are slightly lower than City Manager Alan Bergren proposed after the council used almost $200,000 in additional state revenue to lower the projected tax rate.

Because the values of all properties citywide dropped dramatically in this year's revaluation, the tax rate appears to have increased by 40 percent. But an evaluation by Bergren showed that homeowners may see a slight decrease in their tax bills, as the tax burden shifts to commercial properties.

Alderman Mark Bettencourt started the budget deliberation by proposing that $300,000 of the $324,000 in additional state grant money be added to the school budget. Bettencourt agreed with school officials that the city needs to bring back world languages and instrumental music to the middle schools to make the city more attractive to young, professional families.

But the council voted 4-3 against the proposal. Mayor Deberey Hinchey said the $71.5 million school budget proposed by Bergren gave the school system a $1 million increase over this year's total.

"The increase of $1.058 million has to be adequate this year," she said.

Aldermen also were split on whether to spend $66,510 to restore a fire code clerk in the paid fire department, a 4-3 vote in favor, and another $66,324 to add a general laborer to Public Works, a 5-2 vote in favor.

Alderman Francois "Pete" Desaulniers cast the lone vote against the budget. After the meeting, he said he opposed adding the positions and felt Bergren's original budget was adequate.

School board Chairman Yvette Jacaruso said she was "very disappointed" in the lack of support for adding funds for schools. Bergren proposed a 1.5 percent increase, while the school board requested a 2.3 percent increase. She said she was hopeful the council would add to the budget.

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