Editor's Note: Comments from Lainie McHugh have been clarified.
The proposed 2013-2014 budget is a complicated affair with many moving parts and uncertainty, one speaker said at Tuesday night's public hearing at Madison Middle School.
Another resident challenged some of First Selectman Tim Hersbt's spending assertions. The Trumbull Board of Finance conducted the hearing. Herbst is proposing a 2.74 percent increase to the Board of Education, less than its request of 4.56 percent to cover staff increases, health care premiums and salary increases.
Resident Steve Castro opened the 30-minute hearing remarking that Herbst "doesn't have control of the taxes."
Short-term borrowing is increasing, and "we're spending money like it's going out of style," Castro said. "[The spending] is being hidden."
Particularly, road maintenance "is an operating budget item. It needs to be addressed," he said.
Resident Scot Kerr urged the finance board to continue to fund the Recycling Coordinator position. A coordinator is needed to manage all aspects of recycling, from education to contracts.
"To kill the plan after less than a year is extremely short-sighted," he said.
The School Budget
Lainie McHugh, a regular at budget meetings who advocates for the school budget, said it's difficult to discuss how to deal with having to cut at least $1.862 million from the board's budget request because of so many variables.
Those include a special savings account established at first for all-day kindergarten funding. One percent of the school budget surplus can be placed in the account for use at a later date. Town officials differ on whether $875,000 in that account should be counted in the school budget.
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Without the $875,000, a funding cliff could result, she said.
The other variables are potential costs savings from moving to self-insuring the school district and how much of a surplus there might be.
McHugh added that some schools need capital improvements. "Eventually these things cannot be ignored," she said.
Later, the parent said Herbst's funding methods "misrepresent true cost of education."
On Patch, McHugh said, "A large portion of the budget reduction is due to the first selectman's recommendation to bond big ticket items like technology, security and athletic field improvements. This down plays the fact that a $1.862 million reduction to the operating budget which would necessitate impactful cuts in personnel and programs.
"Comments as to keeping the budget under threshold for referendum is also an insult to taxpayers. If you are so worried about referendum possibilities, why did we push to change the charter?"
Parent Cindy Katske noted that, "It's very difficult to grasp really what's going on and to grasp the issues that are at hand."
"Considering all the moving parts, I don't think the first selectman's recommendation is enough," she said. For example, Trumbull High School needs more guidance counselors to cope with helping students with a variety of issues, according to Katske.
Help for Seniors and Low-Income Residents
Resident Tony D'Aquila called for road improvements, including more sidewalks, crosswalks, bike trails and traffic lifghts at key intersections.
He also wanted more small homes, without basements or attics, built for seniors and for low-income residents, in addition to WiFi and a community center instead of the Senior Center.
"I am here to provide you with a vision for the town," he said.
In general, said Monica Welch, the town should not put everything in the operating budget nor should it bond everything.
As the last speaker, Castro said road maintenance should be put in the operating budget instead of increasing bonding.
"People will get tired of kicking the can down the road," he said.