Simsbury residents voted to approve four Capital Improvement Projects included in the 2012-13 town budget Tuesday at the annual town meeting held at . The town budget and two remaining Capital Improvement Projects will be put before voters in a referendum on May 15.
Approximately 75 people participated in a voice vote during Tuesday's annual town meeting to approve four projects at a total of $1.99 million.
The approved projects include:
- Improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks on Owens Brook Boulevard, West Street, and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail/East Coast Greenway at a cost of $358,000
- Emergency Management Study for the town's emergency generators at a cost of $74,000
- Replacement of the dispatch console at a cost of $185,000
- Improvements to the Wolcott Pump Station at a cost of $1,378,000
Two items that drew dialogue from the Capital Improvement Project plan will automatically be included in a referendum on May 15: The land purchase at a cost of $2,050,000 and the Simsbury School District Network Infrastructure at a cost of $1,800,000.
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Several residents spoke in favor of the Ethel Walker land purchase citing its importance to the town's water supply. According to officials, the land supplies 80 percent of the town's water through the Stratton Brook aquifer.
Others said the cost of the purchase is an unnecessary burden on taxpayers and that the land was over-appraised.
"We shouldn't be paying what we are paying for it, but it is important that we purchase the land," Robert Kalechman said.
One resident said the purchase of existing open space by the town bordered on socialism.
The town will use a state grant of $691,666 towards the purchase leaving the town to pick up the balance of $1.36 million.
Board of Finance Chairman Paul Henault presented the 2012-13 town budgets along with First Selectman Mary Glassman and Board of Education Chairman Lydia Tedone.
The revised budgets are as follows:Board of Education $63,916,112 1.45 percent increase Non-Public Schools $528,738 .86 percent increase Debt Retirement $6,082,355 .04 percent increase Board of Selectmen $18,038,600 .99 percent increase
The proposed budgets will result in a 1.62 percent increase in the town's mill rate. The new mill rate would be 31.36 mills.
The focus of public discussion on the presented budgets centered on the Board of Education's proposed budget. Resident David Balboni wanted to know why the budget did not include grant funding being used to pay for programs and staff.
"Why have we not been completely transparent in reporting that?" Balboni said. "I'd like to know why the three boards haven't gone the way Avon has."
Ullman said the board does include grant funding in the annual budget book, but that the funding is not included in the line item budget because they are not considered appropriations.
Mike Rinaldi expressed his concern that the per-pupil expenditure in the district has increased too much over the past decade.
"The past ten years have been the most disastrous," Rinaldi said. Rinaldi said the move to an 8-period day and hiring of additional staff has placed an unneccessary burden on taxpayers.
Ullman defended the move saying the change has fostered strong developments in student achievement.
"Students are taking more courses and better courses as a result of the 8-period day," Ullman said. Ullman also said the district was able to use the federal Jobs Fund to pay for additional staff needed to implement the extended day.
Both the town budget and two Capital Improvement Plan projects will be included in a referendum to be held on May 15 at Henry James Memorial School from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are available from the Town Clerk from May 2-15.