I admit it. I am one of apparently only 358 people in town who voted in favor of the budget on May 8. Not that I would be happy about my taxes going up, but I think the East Windsor Board of Selectman, East Windsor Board of Education and East Windsor Board of Finance work hard to present a reasonable budget for the town and school.
It seems like some people think this is the first round, and they don’t understand the budget proposed by the board of education and board of selectmen is initially pared down by their own board discussions and then further cuts are often made by the board of finance before it is presented to voters.
For example, someone mentioned a 6 percent increase in the board of education’s proposed budget at a public hearing last week, but by the time the budget got to referendum that had been lowered to a 3.91 percent increase.
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Although the budget referendum vote was 2-1, the town clerk’s office reports the vote tally was 358 yes, and 740 no. So, out of 7,125 registered voters, only 1,098 voted in the referendum, which is about 15 percent.
I was glad to read some people attended the public hearing on last week, but it is too bad people don’t get involved earlier in the process, rather than just voting no.
A legitimate complaint is the voting hours, which are mandated from noon to 8 p.m. First Selectwoman Denise Menard said there wasn’t enough time between the vote on May 8 and a second referendum on May 22 to hold a town meeting and vote on a proposal for longer polling times and then announce that change legally. So, the polling hours will remain at noon to 8 p.m. on May 22 for the second round.
“I was surprised by the vote, and disappointed by the low voter turnout,” Menard said Monday. “When less than 15 percent are voting, does the result reflect what the majority of people want? It is hard to say.”
“This is the budget we have to live with for the rest of the year,” Menard said. “It is discouraging.”
Another thing to consider is how school performance is tied to property values. Supporting neighborhood schools helps keep property values steady.
Superintendent of Schools Theresa Kane said she also was surprised by the low voter turnout.
“I think people with strong feelings voted against it,” she said. “I hope people will make the time to vote.”
In her position, she cannot advocate how to vote, but she can encourage people to vote. The current education budget proposal is $20.4 million. Although it is an increase of about $895,689, she said this budget will mean a cut in services because of contracts and costs. The initial proposal at the last referendum would have meant a level service budget.
Our schools have recently instituted full-day kindergarten, a breakfast program at the Broad Brook School, and have other programs, including curriculum improvements and lowering class sizes, they are working on.
According to the board of education presentation to the board of finance, our school district is among the 30 lowest performing districts in Connecticut. Both the Broad Brook School and the East Windsor Middle School are designated in need of improvement.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges has placed the high school on warning for inadequate funding and facility, which could lead to a loss of accreditation. This could affect the school’s graduates’ future higher education options and value of home properties.
Kane said school performance is tied to property values, both for families looking into moving into town, and for people wanting to sell their homes.
“We are on warning and the NEASC is looking for a commitment for consistent funding, which has to come from the town,” she said.
The $34.138 million 2012-13 budget proposal will go to referendum on May 22. The budget represents a 2.68 percent increase over the current $33.247 million spending plan. The proposal would mean a 0.56 mill increase in the tax rate, officials said.
Please support our schools and our town and vote for the budget on May 22.