Referendum Information: June 5, 2018

This page provides an overview of helpful information needed to make an informed decision for voting on the Redding Town Budget Referendum on June 5, at the Redding Community Center.

This is the second referendum vote for 2018-2019. The discussion surrounding the first spending proposal (voted on on May 8) had been contaminated by a welter of confusing and contradictory claims; hence the urgent need for straight facts.

There are three main sections on this page. The Overview provides data concerning total proposed expenditures and total taxes to be raised. The section following that gives a breakdown of the total numbers according to town boards that submitted requests. The final section describes the impacts on staff and services that follow from the updated budget requests, after the first referendum failed.

Overview

Here are some bulleted bare-bone numbers to anchor the discussion:

  • The current total town budget proposal represents an increase of +2.35% over that of 2017-2018.

From $48,233,326 (2017-2018) to $49,368,104 (2018-2019), i.e., a $1,134,778 increase. Some of the primary drivers of this increase will be explained below.

The requested increase in the BOE budget would be the first increase since 2013-2014.

  • The budget increase has been cut by close to one-third (-31%) relative to the budget increase proposed on May 8.

Down from the May 8 increase of $1,647,129, to the current proposed increase of $1,134,778. This total budget cut necessitates certain cuts to staff and services in the town and schools, as will be explained below.

  • Including the June 5 proposed spending increase and the corresponding +2.6% tax increase, town property taxes have gone up an average of 1% over the past five years, well below the rate of inflation.

Please note that tax increase is different from budget/spending increase. Taxes to be raised by the town are what the town needs to cover the budget, after taking into account other offsetting items such as the senior tax credit and state assistance. The offset between the budget increase and tax increase is not under the control of the boards (school boards, Selectmen): they simply submit budget requests and have nothing to do with the other items.

Taxes raised in 2013-2014 were $46,242,093. The June 5 referendum is to vote on whether the town approves of taxes amounting to $48,830,500. The difference is $2,588,407. This divided by the 2013-2014 amount is 5.5975%. Averaged linearly over 5 years, that’s about 1.1% 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: 1.09% per year. However you compute it, the rise (about 5.6% over 5 years) is less than the rise due to inflation (about 7.6% over 5 years), according to http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/.

(A final note on the numbers: typically the town taxpayer burden is less than the town budget, because the offset between the two, consisting of various revenues and deficits that enter the accounting, tends to work in the taxpayers’ favor. The reason that the 2.6% rise in taxes is greater than the 2.35% rise in budget is because the offset this year is less than the offset last year, e.g., the state aid we got in Redding was less generous this year. It’s not because an extra .25% was somehow “added on” by anyone.)

  • 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, and the referenda (whatever their outcomes) do not affect it: it is baked in, so to speak.

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 $21,231,623. 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 2.3% 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 fact, 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. Other costs not tied to student numbers, such as for heating and building maintenance, have also risen.

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. Taking such nuances into consideration, regular/general education costs are down.

  • The proposed June 5 referendum budget increase for Redding K-8 has been cut by more than 40% relative to the 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. Again, what the cuts specifically entail will be explored below.

As a final concrete data point:

  • The K-8 budget increase averages to approximately 40 cents per Redding household per day.

This is a very estimated amount. There are approximately 3300 households in Redding. Dividing $479,000 by 3300 is about $145 per year per household, or about 40 cents per household per day. Another way to look at it: it’s about $12 per month per household.

The ER9 budget

Here one must take into account that this budget is shared with Easton. Each town’s share is proportional to the percentage of students from that town, so that the burden changes according to shifting differences between the two towns’ demographics.

  • The Redding share of the ER9 budget goes up by 5.3%; however, the (proposed) total budget is up by much less: up 1.9%.

The total budget last year was $23,789,137; the current total proposal is $24,240,492, up by $451,355. As for Redding’s share, that goes up from $12,727,188 to a proposed $13,397,720.

Of course the only number under the board’s control is the total. They are not responsible for the changing demographics that produced a dramatic jump in Redding’s share, which incidentally includes a greater share of fixed costs and overhead.

  • The proposed ER9 June 5 referendum increase (total) has been reduced by 35% relative to the increase requested on May 8.

From a $694,316 requested increase (May 8) to $451,355 (June 5).

The Selectmen’s budget

  • The Selectmen’s proposed budget is down by .1% relative to last year’s budget.

From $14,753,515 last year, it went slightly up in the May 8 proposal of $14,796,773, but the current June 5 proposal of $14,738,761 is slightly down from last year.

Impacts on staff and services

In this section we outline how the budget reductions, from the May 8 proposal to the June 5 proposal, translate into cuts in staff and services. The subsections treat each board’s purview separately.

For Redding K-8

Relative to the May 8 budget proposal, the June 5 proposal involves the following cuts in staffing levels:

  • At RES, eliminating one general education teacher, one reading paraprofessional, and eliminating a counselor at the .8 level. In total, this is a $148,052 cut.
  • The RES enrichment program will be eliminated. This is a cut of $54,052.
  • At JRMS, a math teacher and writing paraprofessional are being eliminated from JRMS, and a music teacher at the .4 level is being eliminated. In total, this is a $108,268 cut.
  • Increase in unemployment compensation since teachers and staff who have been reduced in force are entitled to unemployment benefits. (No exact figure available at this time.)

In addition, to meet financial goals, additional cuts were made to programs and supplies at both schools. These include

  • General reductions in advisor stipends for JRMS clubs and activities, e.g., after-school clubs, amounting to $30,000. The result is that many such clubs would no longer run.
  • Additional such cuts would eliminate the RES Garden Club and Kindness Club. Such cuts would also result in some savings of supplies.
  • A slew of miscellaneous cuts at both schools in, e.g., Chromebooks, cleaning and repairs, building electricity, office technology, library books, PowerSchool assessments, and more.

For Region 9 (Joel Barlow)

The current ER9 board proposal (relative to the May 8 proposal) includes the following reductions and allowances. Note that some of those allowances may be cut, and further reductions made, if the second referendum doesn’t pass.

  • There is a $365,801 decrease in general instruction. Specifically, this results in the reduction of: one science teacher, 0.2 social studies teacher, one student assistance counselor, one academic center paraprofessional, 0.82 English teacher, and the elimination of Latin 1.
  • There is a $183,890 net increase in special education.
  • The budget allows for a student resource officer.
  • The budget includes an increase of $217,456 in student transportation (the third and final year of a bus contract that was negotiated two years ago).
  • Allows for athletic and extracurricular activities similar to the 2017-2018 year, the difference being that Freshman baseball has now been cut due to low numbers, and Freshman girls and boys basketball has been added due to higher numbers.

For the town (Selectmen’s budget)

As noted earlier, there were no substantive changes in town services going from the May 8 proposed budget and the updated June 5 proposal. The small reduction in requested amount is largely due to the Selectmen finding some extra financial efficiencies in the meantime.

Of course, as with all the board requests, if the second referendum fails and we go to a third referendum, this may result in cuts with a more palpable impact, such as in grants going to organizations that apply for them.