Last week, the Town Council adopted a budget with a 1-percent overall increase and a 2-percent increase in taxes, an improvement from the 4-percent tax hike reflected in Town Manager Peter Souza's initial budget proposal.
To lower the tax hike, Town Council members were forced to make spending cuts in departments across town, including safety services (cutting funding for one police officer position and one police cruiser) and public works (cutting $150,000 from the department, but to be funded out of the general fund), but the cuts that residents may take notice of immediately were to funding for First Town Downtown and the education budget.
The council's adopted budget for fiscal year 2011-12 calls for a $300,000 cut in funding for education, essentially sending the Board of Education and Interim Superintendent Ernest Perlini back to the drawing board to find areas withing their proposed $62 million budget to trim the fat.
The creation of the Board's budget for the upcoming year was a particularly difficult task this year, as former Superintendent Elizabeth Feser was charged with making up for what was anticipated to be a drop in State aid in the form of Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant money.
What may provide the Board of Education a break in finding areas to cut money, and what could have led town council members to believe that the Board could afford to make the cut, is that Governor Dannel P. Malloy surprised municipalities by committing to provide ECS funds in the upcoming year.
With or without ECS funds, voters will have a tough decision to make on May 10 when the budget referendum is held.
Town Councilor Donal Jepsen voted in favor of the $300,000 cut last week, but prefaced his vote by saying that, during his tenure on the council, he has never seen a budget pass that included a cut in education funding.
One cut that may not be met with the widespread opposition that a cut in education funding generally incites, but would certainly affect the lives of residents in Windsor is the proposed cut to funding for First Town Downtown.
The organization has focused on the development of Windsor Center for years, putting on events throughout the calendar year, including the Black and White Gala, Summer Concerts on the Green, Nightmare on Broad Street and the Holiday Parade down Broad Street during which firetrucks from departments throughout the area light up the center of town.
The adopted cut in funding for First Town Downtown comes in the form of a $16,000 decrease to the general government budget.
Councilor Aaron Jubrey read a letter from Paul Vagnini, president of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, and Jay Carmon, the president of First Town Downtown, expressing the organizations' plans to merge "in order to provide better services and save money."
In order to merge and maintain services over the coming year, the organization requested to receive 100-percent of the more than $16,000. This request failed by a vote of 3 to 6.
A referendum was set by the council for Tues., May 10. All seven polling stations will be open from 6 a.m. - 8 p.m.
*An earlier version of this article erroneously attributed the letter written to the town council to Jane Garibay, executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, and Jay Carmon, president of First Town Downtown. The letter was in fact written by Paul Vagnini, president of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, and Jay Carmon, president of First Town Downtown.