Below are some simple guidelines for when you head out to vote on the 2011-12 budget referendum:
- Polls will be open today, Thursday, May 12 from 6 a.m to 8 p.m.
- In the state of Connecticut, voters are required to present a form of identification prior to casting their ballots. Acceptable forms of ID include: a Connecticut State driver's license, a social security card, a copy of a utility bill, a bank statement or a paycheck or government check.
- There are five voting districts in the Town of Bethel. To find your district by address, click here.
- For each district, there is a specific polling location:
- District 1 & 4: , 1 School Street
- District 2: , 59 Stony Hill Road
- District 3 & 5: , 200 Whittlesey Drive
- The ballot will have two questions and two non binding questions relating to the 2011-12 budget, which totals $62,958,525. Voters must mark their ballot with an "X" or a "√" mark. (Editor's Note: Residents are reporting that some ballots are bubble-in answers.) A sample ballot is attached to this article, but here are the questions that will appear:
- Question 1: Town Municipal Budget - Shall the Town of Bethel appropriate the sum of Twenty Four Million Nine Hundred Sixty Seven Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Five ($24,967,475.00) Dollars as approved by the Annual Town Meeting of May 2, 2011 as the Annual Town Operating Budget for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2011. (Yes or No)
- Question 2: Town Education Budget - Shall the Town of Bethel appropriate the sum of Thirty Seven Million Nine Hundred Ninety One Thousand Fifty ($37,991,050.00) Dollars as approved by the Annual Town Meeting of May 2, 2011 as the Annual Town Board of Education Budget for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2011. (Yes or No)
- Non Biding Advisory Question 1 - Is the recommended Annual Town Budget in the amount of Twenty Four Million Nine Hundred Sixty Seven Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Five ($24,967,475.00) Dollars...(Too High or Too Low)
- Non Biding Advisory Question 2 - Is the recommended Annual Board of Education Budget of Thirty Seven Million Nine Hundred Ninety One Thousand Fifty ($37,991,050.00) Dollars...(Too High or Too Low)
- The office of the (203-794-8505) or the (203-794-8516) can answer any additional questions about voting in town.
The 2011 Budget Season
The budget season kicked off in mid-February when all to the Board of Finance, who had asked them to be created with a zero percent increase. Several departments did not ask for an increase, but those that didn't were looking to improve technology, equipment or personnel.
The Board of Education originally proposed a budget that included a 2.21 percent increase. This later went down after the board received a grant worth more than $400,000 to go toward salaries. Members of the Board of Finance were concerned how this grant would affect planning the following year's budget, as well as whether incorporating a full-day kindergarten program would cost the town more money. Board of Education Chairman Larry Craybas insisted the latter would cost nothing as the .
In early March, the Board of Finance approved a total budget of $63,051,471, which included a cut of all funding to non-government agencies such as Meals on Wheels and the Women's Center. Several members argued that they should not decide what charities the taxpayers should donate to. This drew who said those organizations were not charities, but vital resources to the community.
Despite that debate and a motion to put some of that funding back in, the Board of Finance voted against it 5-2. After making other smaller cuts from several areas, the final budget was , with the town operating budget at $20,258,658 and the Board of Education budget at $37,991,050; a grand total of a 1.135 percent in spending from last year. Finally at the town meeting, voters despite two motions to cut it by $600,000. If approved, this 2011-12 budget will be in effect starting July 1, 2011.
Still trying to make up your mind? Bethel Patch received several Letters to the Editor (mostly in support of the schools budget) over the past week that caused some discussion. Read them here: