Simsbury Board of Finance sets final budget numbers
By Paul Palmer
SIMSBURY – Agreeing that this is one of the most difficult budgets any of them have worked on, members of the Board of Finance have set the numbers for a final budget to be taken to referendum at $130,405,764.
“In 11 years of budget work this is the hardest I’ve seen,” said Finance Board Member Linda Schofield. “I’ve heard from more people this year than any other.”
Against the backdrop of a revaluation of property, rising overall costs and contractual obligations, both the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education faced critical choices when preparing their proposals. Taxpayers in Simsbury were looking at a mil rate of 32.04 and a tax increase just under 6%.
The Board of Finance had asked the Selectmen and the BOE to go back and make cuts before presenting a final proposal at a public hearing. The Board of Education dropped its figures by 15 % and the town operating budget was reduced another 2%.
The Finance Board went through the budgets and made more adjustments, dropping funding for some projects, adjusting figures, and working to reduce the cost to taxpayers while maintaining quality services and exceptional education for residents.
“In combination these two budgets and the debt financing create a tax level that is not sustainable for local residents and businesses,” said Schofield before the final vote. “We have talked a lot about making unpopular choices.”
Fellow Finance Board member Arthur House echoed her sentiments.
“Nobody is going to go home happy tonight,” House said at the last Finance public hearing. “People are saying I’ve got to look at moving if you do this.”
Following more than three hours of discussion, the Finance Board had reduced the tax rate to 5.18% with a mil rate of 31.82. The average homeowner in town would see an increase of $415 to about $843 in 2023-24.
Prior to the final vote, the Finance Board considered asking the Board of Education to find another $200,00 in cuts that would allow the tax rate to drop below 5%. The merits of such a move were discussed, and at one point the possibility of asking for $400,000 was raised, but in the end both measures were voted down.
Most troubling for the Board of Finance members was the knowledge that Simsbury faces a similar, if not greater, task next year.
“If this was a one shot deal I’d say bite the bullet,” said Robert Helfand. “ But we expect this to go on to next year. We can’t have everything we want or all of the benefits we want to bestow on residents.”
Looking ahead to next year, Lisa Heavner, the Chair of the Board had a dire prediction – “We probably need to cut $5 million out of the Capital Budget next year. I’m just putting that out there now.”
The annual budget referendum will be held on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Henry James Memorial School (155 Firetown Road, Simsbury). Absentee ballots are available in the Town Clerk’s Office until end of day on May 15.