BERLIN - The Town Council voted to reduce the town and Board of Education sides of the $85.2 million budget by $600,000 Tuesday.
The 7-0 vote approved a way to make up for $586,657 in cuts in funding imposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in November.
Those cuts came about when the state legislature passed a budget, but left the specifics of where to make cuts to the governor.
Limited flexibility in wage agreements left few other options to make up for the total $300 million shortfall in the state’s budget, Berlin Finance Director Kevin Delaney has said.
The council split the cost reductions - $400,000 from the school side and $200,000 from the town’s side - after acting Town Manager Jack Healy proposed the idea at a December Board of Finance meeting. The split reflects the proportional relationship of the two parts of the budget.
“I think it’s time to send some direction,” said Mayor Mark Kaczynski before the vote.
Delaney said the town will be looking at freezing, not eliminating, five positions as a way to save the $200,000. A list of the positions was not immediately available, Healy said.
Delaney added more savings could be realized at the end of the year if projects come in under budget.
School board President Mathew Tencza told The Herald after the meeting he would be meeting with Superintendent Brian Benigni today to discuss how the savings will be realized.
Tencza said he is unhappy with the cuts.
“It’s difficult,” he said, with the cuts coming midway through the fiscal year, when they has more of an impact than a full 12-month cut would.
Not filling the assistant superintendent position vacated by Beningi, who replaced David Erwin today after his retirement, until July 1, and a facilities position, are ways the school board has already tried to realize savings, Tencza said.
The move to leave the assistant superintendent position vacant would save about $87,500 by only paying the first six months of Benigni’s salary.
Tencza’s unease with the cuts, he said, came from the school side of the budget’s actually making up 54 percent of the budget, yet Healy gave 60 percent of the cut burden to the schools.
“It’s not the town’s fault for what’s happening,” Tencza said. “This is coming from the state. It’s a statewide problem.”
After the discussion, Deputy Mayor Brenden Luddy asked, “At what point do we fight back?” in reference to the state making the cuts.
Unfunded mandates dictated by the state toward the school district and cutting funds from town to support other cities were the reasons for his question.
Healy responded, saying the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and other organizations Berlin is a member of have tried to push back, but haven’t found much success.
Delaney said other alternatives to make up for the shortfall are using fund balance at the end of the year, implementing a supplemental tax bill or readopting the budget by referendum. He added that there could be more cuts coming to the town.
“We’ll go forward in the spirit of cooperation,” said Kaczynski.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or email@example.com.