Waterford - A public hearing Monday night on the town's proposed budget started with some members of the Representative Town Meeting questioning the proposed increase in the tax rate.
RTM member Theodore Olynciw called the proposed budget increase of $4.4 million, which would require a tax rate increase of 5.49 percent, an insult to residents.
"Year after year our taxes have been increased and neighboring towns have managed to do a better job," he said, referring to the Ledyard budget, which calls for no tax rate increase.
The town's proposed budget is $78.8 million, which is a 6 percent increase over the current budget. After additional RTM hearings tonight and Wednesday, the Board of Finance is expected to meet next week to review the town's projected revenue and set the tax rate.
The proposed general government budget of $28.6 million represents a 3.48 percent while the proposed Board of Education budget of $44.2 million is an increase of 3 percent.
The town's total capital and debt service plan is expected to increase $2.2 million to $5.9 million, a 59 percent jump. A $1.36 million increase in debt service is mainly the result of school building and renovation projects in town.
First Selectman Daniel Steward pointed to the debt incurred from the school projects and town employee raises as the main drivers behind the budget increase.
"These budgets have gone through a lot of scrutiny," Steward said. "It's as tight as we can get considering some of the expenses we've incurred."
RTM member Janet Smith also criticized the spending of the school district and said that there was a sense of entitlement within some town departments. She argued the town's older residents are left to carry the burden of educational spending.
The RTM will continue the public hearing tonight at 7:30 at the Town Hall.