A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 7 p.m. at the Bethel Middle School to review the proposed 2019-2020 Town and School budgets.
Bethel votes for the School and Town Budgets separately, and has on several occasions passed only one of the two. Bethel First Selectmen Matt Knickerbocker said that this causes tremendous issues as the two budgets are intertwined. "Please vote yes/yes or no/no" he requested during a recent talk with local business people at The Bethel Chamber of Commerce.
The school budget accounts for 63% of the combined budget and 46% of the proposed increase, excluding the increase required to pay the obligated debt.
The Town budget accounts for 37% of the combined budget excluding the debt obligation and 54% of the proposed budget increase.
The proposed school budget represents a roughly 3% increase over this year.
Excluding the debt obligation, the proposed Town budget represents a 6.1% increase over this year. This is slightly more than 3 times last year's rate of inflation. The charts below show the proposed changes.
The top 10 proposed line item increases are outlined below, along with each line item.
An Informed Vote Well Cast
The Boards of Selectmen and Finance have crafted the proposed 2019-2020 budget for the Town and for the Schools, which we will be called upon to vote on in early April.
There are many questions that should be asked and answered about this budget. Roughly one third of the increase is in debt service, an obligation our Town approved when we authorized the much needed capital improvements, whose bill has now come due and employee benefits which are mandated by contracts, almost all of which are already in place.
The remaining increases represent a 4% increase over last year, roughly twice the rate of inflation for last year.
We recognize the need to increase many expense lines, either to maintain existing services or make needed improvements, and appreciate the effort put into crafting this document. Yet we also recognize that a 3.94% tax revenue increase, 107% more than inflation, is going to be very hard for many in our Town to absorb.
What we hope for is an informed discussion about the budget and that our Town can come together to find solutions to limit this and future tax growth while maintaining services.
We urge our readers to come to the meeting on March 19 to learn about this proposed budget and to then come out and vote in April.
Correction: We try to be as accurate as possible but sometimes errors do happen. An earlier print version of this editorial incorrectly referred to a 2.94% tax revenue increase. The increase is actually 3.94%. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.