The Farmington Town Council unanimously voted to send its proposed 2012-13 budget to town meeting Monday night, despite some strong word from residents during public comment.
The $90.3 million budget represents a 3.1 percent increase in spending over the current year and a 2.95 percent increase in tax, bringing the mill rate from 21.27 mills to 21.90, if approved.
Town Council Chairman Jeff Hogan presented the budget, in a 5-2 vote, saying that Farmington has remained a town that provides excellent value throughout the economic downturn. He pointed to the town’s AAA Moody’s financial rating, a and continued recognition of the town’s schools as some of the best in the country.
“Farmington has done an excellent job of doing more with less...” Hogan said. “I believe this year’s budget represents continued investment in those things the average Farmington citizen wants most and continues to provide value and consistency to its citizens. These things are precious commodities in a world of uncertainty.”
But though council members agreed, each voicing support for the proposed budget, several residents criticized both the budget and the council during the preceding public hearing.
“I’m here to beg… implore you… to change your mind about this budget,” began Farmington Taxpayers Association President Harry Kraiza. “Taxpayers in the town of Farmington are facing armageddon; you know it and I know it – revaluation is going to significantly increase the property taxes of the average residential homeowner in this town.”
Kraiza also took issue with the terminology used and said decreased enrollment and technological advances should allow the Board of Education a place to reduce staff.
“It’s not cuts, it’s reductions to increases,” he said of the education budgets that have been reduced through the past four years. “Give the taxpayer a break. You can significantly mitigate the impact [of revaluation] that all of us in this room know is going to happen next year. If you don’t, we’re looking at a double-digit property tax increase.”
Ron Faibusch said he doesn’t blame the Board of Education, rather the responsibility lies with the Town Council.
“The only word I can use to describe your actions is spineless,” Faibusch said. “When you set up guidelines, you don’t set up a range… when you say 0-2 percent, that’s ridiculous; why bother? But that’s not why you’re spineless. You’re spineless for setting up a range… and then completely disregarding what you said.”
He complimented Town Manager Kathy Eagen for coming in at the council’s budget target of 2 percent increase for the town operating budget, but urged the council to trim the Board of Education’s requested increase – which it percent increase to 2.75 – to 2 percent.
Only four residents spoke; about a dozen attended the public hearing.
Hogan closed by acknowledging the speakers’ concerns about revaluation but said, “We never want to take away from the product that is the town of Farmington. People come here for it and property values are driven by that fact…”
Residents will have the opportunity to hear full presentations and vote on the 2012-13 budget at the town meeting on April 23 before it goes to referendum May 3.