Waterford Board of Finance approves $102 million budget – theday.com

Waterford ― The Board of Finance held its final budget public hearing last week and will now send its proposed $102.6 million budget for 2023-24 to the Representative Town Meeting.
The budget calls for a $3.6 million, or 3.6% increase compared to the current budget. The RTM will hold four budget hearing sessions before it approves the budget in May.
Glenn Patterson, chair of the Board of Finance, called the increase “business as usual,” for the town. He would not discuss a preliminary tax rate before the RTM finalizes the budget with the latest revenue and assessment evaluations.
First Selectman Rob Brule said it is “critically important” to reduce the tax rate in a year property owners saw their overall residential property values increase by 37% due to the revaluation.
At last week’s meeting, board members heard no public comments on the budget before reviewing and approving each departmental budget.
The most notable change was to the Board of Education budget, which budgeted $500,000 for textbooks, supplemental materials and teacher training for a new reading program in the district.
Patterson and Brule said the $500,000 was removed from the budget to prevent taxing residents on funds that may not yet be needed due to a possible delay or waiver for implementing the program. They both said the the Board of Education can come back and request the funding if it becomes necessary.
The new program comes after the state passed the Right to Read Act in 2021. School districts are supposed to choose from seven pre-approved curriculum to implement. More than half the districts in the state, including Waterford, have filed waivers with the state to get out of the mandate.
The General Assembly is also considering a bill that would delay the start date for fully implementing an approved reading model, for school boards that haven’t been granted a waiver, until July 1, 2025.
The proposed $54.7 million school budget now calls for a 5% increase.
The budget also includes a 13.7% increase for emergency, fire and police services. He said the increase will allow the town to hire more firefighters and dispatchers while continuing to support the police department.
Brule said 10 other departments could not increase their budgets in order for the town to absorb the emergency services increase.
Patterson said the other notable increase was a 12.6% increase for the assessors office, which added a staff position, while health insurance coverage saw a standard increase of nearly eight percent.
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