It’s springtime in Coventry and slowly the signs of spring appear, snow crocus are the first sign, then budding trees and yellow daffodils. Slowly Mother Nature moves ever forward then suddenly without warning overnight they appear, those green and white signs that say, “Please vote yes on Tuesday”.
The signs are sponsored by the Democratic Town Committee in support of the Town Budget. This year the budget was passed by the Town Council gaining only support from the Democratic members. The referendum to adopt the budget is this Tuesday and it is important to have your voice heard with your vote.
Apparently the Republican Party is opposing the proposed budget. I heard this morning that some residents received a flyer opposing the budget from the Republican Town Committee. To be fair I must say I have not seen nor do I know any of the content or their reasoning for opposing the proposal.
The budget passed the Town Council on a split vote of 5-2 with Julie Blanchard and Richard Williams voting against. Chairman Liz Wolfe, William Zenko, Steven Hall, Lisa Thomas and Valdis Vinkles voted in favor of the budget. Now you know how your Town Council voted. Today is a good time to look at some of the details of the budget to help provide input so that we will all have some facts to consider before we cast our votes.
There has been verbal and written support for $30,000 to be set aside for open space funds and it is now in the budget. There was strong support for an additional police officer which was cut from the budget. There is a lack of concrete answers concerning state aid (over $3,000,000) found in the budget but not yet approved by the state. It is difficult to balance a budget without some assurance that the expected state funds will actually be forthcoming especially, when the Governor has indicated they may not.
Now please remain calm when you read the next bit of information because it may raise your blood pressure a bit at first. If you were listening closely to the last Board of Education meeting and the Annual Town Meeting you should know that there is at least some significant excess in this budget.
The budgeted amount for health insurance at the Board of Education is $3,630,000. That number is based on a 3.6% increase over last year. However, the actual amount of the expenditure will be less than last year. Since the number was placed in the budget new information has become public.
If we remain with the same insurance company the premium will be reduced by about 8% from last year. A larger reduction may be possible with another carrier. Yes, that means not only do we not need the 3.6% increase but we will actually be paying at least 8% less. The difference between what we are budgeting for and what we need is over $360,000 and may reach well over $400,000 when all is said and done.
What happens to that money if the budget should pass? If history is any indicator it will be spent, but not as approved within this budget. Now some would call this a slush fund, a padded or bloated budget, and perhaps even deceptive. That would seem to be a bit over the top since all the information was not available at the time the budget was created, but it was available when the little green signs went up asking the voters to “Please vote yes on Tuesday”.
Maybe the Republicans are thinking a revision of the budget is a good idea and passing it now would be putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps they would like some concrete numbers first; you will have to find a flyer to know for sure.
The question came up today about the Town side of the budget and the amount for insurance and yes, there should also be a premium savings available there. The extra money may be able to fund something useful and needed by the community but you will have to trust our leadership on where it will go because they have been silent.
You can support the budget or oppose the budget but now you have some additional facts. If you find this information helpful you may pass it along to your friends and neighbors in Coventry and don’t forget to vote this Tuesday.
For additional information on the budget see “Why Vernon and Why Not Coventry” commentary below this posting.