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Redding To Discuss 1.3% Spending Increase Thursday

Redding voters will have the final say on the town's 2013-2014 budget in a referendum on May 7.
Redding voters will have the final say on the town's 2013-2014 budget in a referendum on May 7. Photo Credit: Ken Liebeskind (File)

REDDING, Conn. – Redding voters will have the chance to propose changes to the town’s spending for the next fiscal year Thursday afternoon.

Redding’s Annual Town Budget Meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Town Hall hearing room. Any registered voter or person over 18 owning more than $1,000 in town property is eligible to propose cuts to the 2013-14 town budget approved by the Board of Finance last month.

The Board of Finance approved a budget that calls for more than $45.7 million in town spending for the next fiscal year, an increase of about 1.3 percent.

Most of the new town spending will go to Joel Barlow High School. The Region 9 Board of Education approved a 1.97 percent budget increase for the school last month. Redding students represented a larger share of the school’s rising enrollment, so the town’s contribution to the high school will rise 3.5 percent next school year, or more than $416,000.

The Redding Board of Education budget, which pays for John Read Middle School and Redding Elementary School, will also rise by about $110,000 next year without any changes at the town meeting. The half-percent increase will mostly go toward a one-time addition to the board’s health insurance reserve fund.

Aside from health insurance, Redding schools spending will be lower next year. Redding’s enrollment is declining, and the school board will cut staff to account for that, school board chair Jess Gaspar told the Board of Finance.

“We’re actually seeing, in terms of resources actually in the schools, an actual reduction in spending,” Gaspar said at the finance board’s budget hearing.

On the town side, the government’s budget calls for a spending increase of about $87,000. Much of that would cover increased health-care costs, which will rise more than $135,000 next  year.

Other changes include higher pension and worker compensation costs, salaries for new police officers and an increase in funding to the Mark Twain Library. Much of the town’s added costs would be offset by lower debt service, which dropped $173,000 after the town refinanced its debt.

The impact of the town’s spending increases is not clear yet. Redding’s tax assessor revalued the town’s property last year, changing property value calculations for tax bills. During the revaluation home assessments dropped compared with the last estimation. The mill rate will have to go up even more than usual to compensate.

“One of our concerns is that people will not understand that when revaluation happens, and your assessment typically went down … that does not necessarily mean a corresponding drop in taxes,” First Selectman Natalie Ketcham told the Board of Finance.

At the town meeting residents can propose cuts to the budget, but not increases beyond what the Board of Finance has already approved. Once the budget proposal is finalized Thursday the budget will go to its townwide referendum May 7.

Redding’s full budget is available in line-by-line detail on the town website.

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