Opponents rallied as East Hampton officials look to slash school - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Opponents rallied as East Hampton officials look to slash school budget

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EAST HAMPTON, CT (WFSB) -

Budget bells are ringing loud and clear in East Hampton as the town council reviews the slashed plan from the Board of Finance.

Concerned parents who oppose the cuts have scheduled a rally, and an alternative plan.

On Tuesday night, East Hampton’s finance council delivered a reduced $45.6 million budget plan to the town council, which includes big cuts in education.

The town council approved the controversial budget from the finance committee, so now the voters will decide in a referendum what they want to prioritize. 

The council approved the vote 5-2. 

Even with the cuts, property owners are looking at higher taxes.

The $31.1 million education budget is taking the biggest hit from the finance board, cutting $670,000, which means the elimination of three positions at the high school, two at the middle school as well as one health teacher that works at the high school and middle school, a teacher at Center School and a teacher at Memorial School.

“Of course, education is the number one priority, or it should be,” said Phil Motto, who is an East Hampton taxpayer.

On Tuesday, rally organizer Tania Sones said there’s another option that hasn’t been explored, which is tapping into the $5 million rainy day fund.

“We do have that opportunity to not put the burden onto the taxpayers in this situation and again it’s a short-term solution, we still need a long-term solution of generating more revenue in East Hampton,” Sones said.

Council Chair Melissa Engel said it was a difficult decision, but necessary because the town faces a $1 million loss in the state for funding. Without this reduced budget, taxpayers would face a huge tax increase. 

"We can't just dedicate our money to education as much as we might love to, there are other people that will need to be taken care of and other issues that need to be taken care of as well. So, we need to look at the broad picture," Engel said. 

Outside of the meeting, students who were chanting before the meeting started were stunned into silence over the decision. 

"That's a little shocking. I really don't know what to say that much," said Sonja Venetianer, from Central School. 

Parents were angry and disappointed over the vote. 

"I wish they had thought a little bit longer and a little bit harder about this because I really think that if they had taken the time to really pick it apart a little bit, and sent it back to the Board of Finance, we could have come to a better decision," said Melissa Alford, a parent. 

Without the cuts to the education budget, the average homeowner was looking at an additional $340 property tax hike. 

The budget will now go to referendum in May. 

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