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More Than 120 Crowd Groton Budget Hearing

Most ask the town council to spare further cuts, particularly to education.

More than 120 people jammed a public hearing on the proposed Groton budget Thursday, most asking the town council to spare deeper cuts and in some cases, give something back.

Dozens spoke. Many asked the council to consider restoring money for paraprofessionals in the schools, the strings program for third-grade students, and interdistrict transportation for students attending magnet schools.

“It’s too much,” Lisa Tess said of the school cuts. “It’s too much and it absolutely sickens me to think about the positions that are being cut and the programs that are being cut.”

The proposed $121.6 million town budget includes $73.66 million for education, an increase of 1.4 percent from the current year for schools. The schools’ budget nevertheless eliminates 80 salaried positions, including 50 to 60 paraprofessionals.

The overall budget represents an increase of .6 percent over current spending, and would require a 5.4 percent increase in the tax rate. The mill rate would rise from 20.22 mills to 21.31 mills, or $109 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

Leslie Spees, a teacher for 29 years, said she’s concerned about children’s safety if paraprofessionals are removed from kindergarten classrooms. One third of her kindergarten students are four years old, and she has 20 students.

A paraprofessional who spoke pointed out that she earns $10.69 an hour.

In the case of magnet school transportation, parents said the state reimburses the town for the costs, so Groton saves nothing by cutting transportation but creates a hardship for working parents.

“If this cut is carried out, the impact on my family would be devastating,” said Kheeyshia Steele. “I might have to quit my job.”

Several speakers also asked the council to support the proposed city budget, which is lower than current year.

Other speakers offered support for more playing fields and an aquatics center.

But some said Groton must stop raising taxes.

Lesley Aument said her property taxes have gone up $600 in two years.

“I know change is difficult for a lot of us, but times have changed everywhere and we need to face that,” she said. “We have to stop turning away from reality.”

Genevieve Cerf, a member of Representative Town Meeting, said taxes have doubled since she moved to town in 2000.

She added that Pfizer is razing its former research headquarters and people with higher value homes are putting them on the market.

 “People are just throwing up their hands and saying, ‘I can’t do it anymore'," she said.

B.R.E.E. March 29, 2013 at 09:47 AM
Good luck finding cheaper taxes. You will have to leave CT.
Molly B March 29, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Now here's a novel suggestion: How about cutting salaries from the top down? Then everyone would have their cake and could eat it, too!
Will James March 29, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Wrong. Mill rates just over the bridge in Stonington are anywhere from 5 to 10 points lower than in Groton--meaning that a property worth $500K in Groton is taxed anywhere from $11,000 to $12,500, while an identically-valued property in Stonington is taxed at $7,500.
A believer in giving back March 29, 2013 at 01:44 PM
I'm not at all a fan of cutting out things that are for the good of the children. I think it would be a BIG mistake to take the paras out of the schools. I have personally been a volunteer and I have seen some great work done by a para. Not only that but having a para in a class sometimes give the balance and the extra hand a teacher needs. With classroom sizes they way they are, which makes it harder for the teacher to spread her time, a para is needed. I also think that if more programs for the kids were cut you are taking away the childrens right to have a FULL education. Just my opinion!! I agree lets cut from the top and work down. All hearing about the childrens program on the line. I also think its great that there is now a senior center but how about a youth center/ rec. center. This could be a central place that has the now groton parks and rec. along side a youth center with some free things to keep the kids in a positive frame. I know East lyme has a youth center and it has been used for so many different community things and given a positive place for children to get info. or have a place to go?? I mean all these empty schools with the heat and lights on still?? Could be?? of some use.
michael kane March 29, 2013 at 02:34 PM
People who complain that their taxes have doubled in the past twelve years should be reminded that the value of their home has increased by as much as six times in that same time period. This is good for Groton and for property owners. I strongly support the strings program and keeping teachers and paraprofessional teaching and off the unemploymeny line.
ELock March 29, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Michael Kane - I have lived in Groton all of my life as my parents have also. I'm letting you know that my home has not increased in value 6x over the past 12 years. Not even close my friend. What the bleep are you talking about?
Steve Garmon March 29, 2013 at 03:05 PM
I don't know where you live Mr. Kane, but from my perspective, my home's value has gone down over the past 12 years, but my taxes have increasingly gone up, and looks to go up again! How about getting more funding for our police department which has cut funding for various patrols throughout the town. To "Giving back", our beloved RTM rep Lillian Hansen tried for the past 30 years in trying to get the town to set aside property and money for a youth center in town. The answer was always not at this time. Now that Fitch Middle School is vacant, set that up for a Youth Center, it is available!
Genevieve Cerf March 29, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Sorry to have to correct your math Michael, but my property has only increased 30% in value since 2000, and because of the high taxes and the fact that buyers are reluctant to buy here in GLP because of the inexorable and exorbitant increases in taxes, my property value is now even 15% lower than the value the 2011Town Reval value according to Zillow. Most of the 2012 GLP sales last year sold for 10-30% less than the Town 2011 appraisal (not the assessment). Are you scared yet? No? I am. Can't pay the taxes and can't sell.
Genevieve Cerf March 29, 2013 at 05:06 PM
I am sitting here in complete disbelief this morning, at the way support for the current unsustainable budget was computed last night. For every emotional and moving voice raised in a plea for restoring some of the education cuts, the "powers that be" counted those as resounding support for the entire GLUTTED budget. Whether we like it or not (and morally approve of it or not, which parenthetically I don't) American corporations have completely reinvented themselves in the last 20 years in order to become globally competitive. They have ruthless cut payroll and expenses, and squeezed staggering "productivity" from the remaining workers, resulting in huge profits and the ability to rebound from a crushing financial crisis. What has the Town of Groton done to match this level of competitiveness and productivity? Not enough for sure. As I said last night, we need to cut. Probably a 5-10% cut in staff and/or salaries. NOT the small stuff everyone loves (which is how they get you every time), but the bloated school administrator salaries and the bloated ranks of town operations departments.
Felecia March 29, 2013 at 06:00 PM
My property taxes have done nothing but go up since i moved to groton 15 years ago and my value has not gone up..all my family has 50 acres of land and a comparable valued home in preston and they pay LESS in taxes than i do here in groton on .95 of an !!!! Hey keep raising them until we all leave or forclose....and by the way lets do some more horribly planned beautification like in mystic and drive more business out along with homeownrs!!!!
augie42 March 29, 2013 at 11:51 PM
There was a lot of emotion at this meeting last night and a little bit of facts. Town Manager once again put his spin and spell on people for 30 minutes. He continues to grow our gov't with another big mill rate increase. Several people said there is little reason for people to move to Groton. I for one have some faith that the COUNCIL may provide some LEADERSHIP and do what is best for ALL of Groton. We cannot continue to push out people and businesses by raising taxes and increasing spending. Education is important, but as Dr Ramos said we are at a fiscal cliff. Balanced spending and cuts to minimize the overall tax burden will be tough, but it can be done. Scott Aument.
Dannyboy March 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Combining the police departments and highway departments will save millions of dollars every year. Thats every year. Why are there three police chiefs in Groton? Numerous upper level management costs too much money. The city of Groton is 3.9 square miles people. Losing Pfizer makes this an easy decision. And yes everyone, Pfizer is closing shop here very soon. Give early retirements to officers from both departments that are eligible or close. Have the patrol men and women change uniforms. Chief Crowley could run the entire thing. Im sure most officer's would love the change and to be in a larger organization means more chance for advancement in their profession. City of Groton Highway department in Groton 3.9 square miles. Are you kidding me? One highway department for Groton. There should be an immediate call for a referendum on this matter.
Rick McDonald April 03, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Dannyboy, please provide numbers showing how this merger you suggest would save millions. Please be specific.

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