The Berlin Town Council cut the Board of Education's budget by $366,000 in the budget which will go to voters for referendum on April 24. The proposed town budget is $73.5 million.
The budget calls for a 0.71 mill tax increase, or an increase in the tax rate to 25.21 mills.
The budget saw a reduction on the town side of $565,203 and that amount of $366,000 on the BOE side. The Board of Education asked for $39.45 million.
The biggest cuts to the BOE budget came in two areas. In Capital Purchases, the BOE requested $725,472 and the Council approved $198,029. In the area of Building and Site, The Board requested $379,410 but only $69,500 was approved by the Council.
Board of Education President Gary Brochu made his presentation at the budget public hearing Tuesday night.
Brochu said that of the 166 school districts in the state, Berlin is 116th in per pupil spending. He added that if the budget is accepted at referendum the Board will have a lot of decisions to make.
"Part of the money that was requested in that area is for new band uniforms," Brochu said. "Usually we have a large audience of band students and band parents at our meetings but they are not here tonight. We budgeted for band uniforms but we may have push that off since we have had our budget cut."
The Berlin High School band uniforms are at least 35 years old according to BOE member John Richards.
"We might disagree over how long something is going to last but there is a life span of all goods," Board of Education member Richards said. "The band uniforms are freaking old. If we get one more year and then another year out of goods that are past their shelf life, we are borrowing time. How long do we continue to put off the band uniforms or that fire truck or the Willard roof? The budget is not a one-year plan but a long-range plan. We offered last year to talk to the Town Council and they have not accepted yet."
Deputy Mayor Steve Morelli said, "There needs to be more talk between the departments, whether it is a retreat or a meeting where we can sit down and prioritize what is on the various boards' minds."
Councilor Bill Rasmussen reponded to Richards.
"The Town council can't tell the Board of Education how to spend the amount you get from the town," he said. "We try to make sure that the number one and number two priorities are addressed. But you can choose to spend money on other things. The band uniforms were a priority five. We are telling you this is the amount we can fund and then it's up to you to decide how to spend it."