The Town Council cut First Selectman Steve Vavrek's budget proposal by $475,983 Monday night and approved a total $81.26 million budget for 2013-14 with a 3.38% spending increase over the current year.
The proposal was approved by a vote of 7-2, with Democrats Nick Kapoor and Dee Dee Martin voting against it.
"To prepare a budget for our town is a daunting task every year, but this year is even more difficult," said Chairwoman Enid Lipeles. "Citizens always have very strong opinions on the budget. This makes our jobs as elected officials that much more challenging — how do we provide the necessary services to our citizens without overextending the taxpayers that have to foot the bill? ... We were as fiscally conservative as we could be."
Town Councilman J.P. Sredzinski said the first selectman had presented an "ambitious" budget that includes money for maintenance, infrastructure, more funding for the town's three fire departments, and technology and security upgrades — including three school resource officers.
"I hope this budget will be supported in the first referendum," Sredzinski said.
During his First Selectman's Update, Vavrek said, "I hope you support a budget that's choc full of services for the first time in a few years. I support the budget that I put out and I hope everyone will support it when it eventually gets out to the voters."
The 2013-14 budget proposal will now head to the Board of Finance before making its way to a Town Meeting that will convene to a referendum vote.
Both Kapoor and Martin disagreed with specific cuts from proposals, including two police dispatchers, reduced raises for part-time library staff and $10,000 for the maintenance of the Senior Center. They also wanted a part-time economic development director to be added to the budget, a Building Department office assistant to be made full time, and more funding for legal expenses.
Martin and Kapoor also disagreed with the contention of some Republicans on the council that there was enough discussion on the creation of "rolling stock", an account in which the town borrows money from itself to replace vehicles and pays itself back in five years at no interest.
"For us it was a priority," Martin said after the meeting. "If we voted for the budget, we wouldn't have a leg to stand on when explaining what we didn't like about it."
Town Councilman Frank Lieto, a Republican, said, "I didn't see the Democrats making any motions to compromise during our workshops."
For instance, when the Council moved to take two police dispatchers out of the budget, Lieto said Democrats could have proposed adding one instead.