Facts concerning the June 26 Referendum

(Note: this page is still under construction.)

This page provides an overview of helpful information needed to make an informed decision for voting on the Redding Town Budget Referendum on June 26, at the Redding Community Center. Please click here for Absentee Ballot information, and the statement that will appear on the ballot.

This is the third referendum vote for 2018-2019.

There are three main sections on this page. The Overview provides data concerning total proposed expenditures and total taxes to be raised. The section “Budgets on a town-board basis” gives a breakdown of the total numbers according to town boards that submitted requests. The section “Cuts to schools” describes both the consequences of budget cuts after the second referendum failed, and the overall timeline of cuts since last year.

Overview

Here are some bulleted bare-bone numbers:

  • The current total town budget proposal represents an increase of +2.03% over that of 2017-2018.

From $48,233,326 (2017-2018) to $49,226,160 (2018-2019), i.e., a $992,834 increase. Notable drivers of this increase include rising costs of Special Ed, medical insurance, transportation, and physical plant operations.

The proposed Redding K-8 budget is the first requested increase in since 2013-2014 and is lower than the 2011-12 approved budget.

If we consider just the portion of the Redding town budget which has not yet passed, which is the sum of the Board of Selectmen’s budget and the BOE budget, that’s going from $35,506,138 in 2017-2018, to $35,828,440 proposed for June 26.  That’s an increase of 0.9%.  Whereas Redding’s budget for the high school, already passed, went up 5.3%.

In other words, most of the proposed increase is due to the part of the budget which has already passed. (Total increase for BOS and BOE is $322,302; total increase for the high school is $670,532.)

Here incidentally is a timeline indicating the proportion of the Redding budget for each of the three boards (Board of Selectmen, Redding BOE, ER9 Board) since 1991:

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  • The budget increase has been cut by another 13% relative to the budget increase proposed on June 6.

Down from the June 5 increase of $1,134,778, to the current proposed increase of $992,834. Already the June 5 increase represented a cut of about 31% relative to the May 8 increase.

This total budget cut necessitates further cuts to staff and services in the town and schools, as we explain below.

  • Including the June 26 proposed spending increase and the corresponding +2.34% tax increase, town property taxes have gone up an average of 1% over the past five years, well below the rate of inflation.

Taxes raised in 2013-2014 were $46,242,093. If the June 26 referendum passes, the amount of taxes the town must raise from property owners comes to $48,688,556. The difference is $2,446,463. This divided by the 2013-2014 amount is 5.29%. Averaged linearly over 5 years, that’s about 1.06% per year, as a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation.

A more careful computation (based on a geometric mean, akin to interest formulas) actually gives a slightly smaller number: 1.036% per year. However you compute it, the rise (5.29% over 5 years) is less than the rise due to inflation (about 7.6% over 5 years), according to http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/.

Note: The reason that the 2.34% rise in taxes is greater than the 2.06% rise in budget is not because an extra .28% was somehow “added on”.  It has to do with the difference between budgets and taxes-to-be-raised, called the offset, which varies from year to year. For an explanation of these terms, please read the FAQ.

Regarding financials separate from budget requests:

  • The town “rainy day” fund (aka the unassigned fund balance) has been rebuilt to be at or near the recommended level of $8.3 million.
  • The senior tax credit is fully funded and is not affected by this referendum.

In fact the senior tax credit has been boosted from $1,841,640 (2017-2018) to $1,892,998 (2018-2019). Let us repeat, in case there is any confusion on this point: the senior tax credit is mandated by statute. The referenda (whatever their outcomes) do not affect it.

Budgets on a town-board basis

A more fine-grained analysis takes into account some further points, where the town boards that submit budget requests are considered individually.

The Redding K-8 budget

  • The proposed Redding K-8 budget is the first requested increase in 5 years, and is lower than the 2011-2012 approved budget.

The approved budget for K-8 in 2011 was $21,353,543. The current proposed budget is $21,129,679. That is without taking inflation into account. Taking inflation into account, the current budget would be considered even less in relative terms (i.e., if we take into account the greater purchasing power of a dollar back in 2011).

  • The K-8 increase of 1.8% over last year’s budget (which was $20,752,623) is largely driven by rising costs of special education and health insurance. Regular education spending is down.
  • In the past 7 years, total general education spending in K-8 has gone down by $1.9 million, while total special education spending has gone up by $1.3 million.

Schools are mandated by law to provide adequate services for special education, which have risen significantly in recent years, as have medical costs and transportation costs. Other costs not tied to student numbers, such as for heating and building maintenance, have also risen.

Some analysis and documents consonant with these findings may be accessed here.

A rational parsing of budget costs necessarily separates out fixed costs and overhead from those costs that are directly correlated to student numbers. Even after separating out those fixed costs, there is necessarily a dramatic difference in cost between special education and general education. When all this is taken into account, regular/general education costs are decidedly down.

  • The proposed June 26 referendum budget increase for Redding K-8 has been cut by more than 50% relative to the first budget increase requested on May 8.

From a $800,000 increase requested as of May 8, to a $479,000 increase requested as of June 5, now down to $377,056 as of June 26. Again, what the cuts specifically entail will be explored below.

The Region 9 budget

The Region 9 budget was already passed on June 5, and Redding’s share of that budget is therefore fixed, i.e., is independent of whatever happens on June 26.  The Redding share is up by 5.3% relative to last year (as discussed further here).

The Selectmen’s budget

  • The Selectmen’s proposed budget is down by .37% relative to last year’s budget.

From $14,753,515 last year, the current June 26 proposal of $14,698,761 is down from last year by $54,754.

Cuts to schools

Here is how the budget reductions, from the June 5 proposal to the June 26 proposal, translate into cuts in service and materials at the K-8 schools.

  • A reduction in advisor stipends at JRMS results in the elimination of the Select Chorus.
  • Cuts to JRMS Author Visits and JRMS Library.
  • Various cuts related to curriculum development and professional development, and a reduction to one Grade 5 team leader.
  • Reductions in supplies to RES, including music supplies, kindergarten supplies, replacement radios.
  • Reductions in legal representation for both schools.

Here is a summary of all cuts since the beginning of this year’s budget proposals: 2018-19 Board of Education Staff & Program Cuts

On the addition side, the BOE budget includes two new part time positions: a .5 Special Services Supervisor and a .3 Specialist at Central Office.

Sources: completely detailed compendia of BOE budget functions after each updating of the budget proposal may be accessed at this page: Redding BOE 2018-2019 Budget Proposals. For example, the budget details between the April 3 BOF meeting and the May 8 referendum is here (with date in the upper right corner of each page). A more reader-friendly description of cuts imposed after each of the first two referenda were rejected is given in a report from Dr. McMorran to the Redding Community, Redding.School1819Budget.Facts (last five pages).