Misunderstanding on state funding cuts affecting Berlin cleared up

Published on Tuesday, 27 February 2018 21:10
Written by Charles Paullin


BERLIN - In a moment of misunderstanding, Helen Malinka, executive director of the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library, said in a newsletter and an email sent to some media outlets Sunday that the town faced $350,000 in cuts from the governor, and the library could be hit as a result.

Town Finance Director Kevin Delaney clarified the situation with The Herald Monday, saying the cuts were actually in the amount of $330,000 and not a townwide issue.

The topic was discussed at a top managers meeting last week, which included Malinka.

The funding dilemma is the result of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s halting nearly $30 million in Town Aid Road funds used for smaller road projects, such as emergency tree trimming, pothole fixing and sidewalk repair. Public Works will manage the effects of the cuts as they see fit to, Delaney said.

Still, the library is feeling the effects of budget cuts earlier this year, when two positions vacated by retirement were frozen, Malinka said.

The children’s department lost one employee earlier this year, putting an end to the popular infant story time. The adult services department went from four to three, limiting notary services and visits to local preschools.

The loss of an adult services employee also limits programs such as craft events, concerts and magic shows. The staff isn’t able to handle contract negotiations, scheduling and promotion efforts as well as it would like, Malinka said.

The job freeze was in response to Malloy’s implemented $600,000 in additional cuts to the town in November. The town didn’t fill five vacated positions retirement to save $200,000.

The school district froze positions and saved funds no longer needed for unemployment reasons to save its $400,000 portion.

Malinka said if the library were hit with the additional $350,000 in cuts, the library would have to look at reduced hours and more program reductions, such as passport service.

Losing the passport service would be tough for the town, Malinka said, as the program brings in revenue, as residents are benefiting from it by not needing to travel to other towns for it.

Delaney said he was not aware of any other cuts in state aid coming to the town or school district for this fiscal year, based on his discussions with representatives in Hartford.

The district is still waiting for the second half of Education Cost Sharing funds in the amount of $2.7 million, and all of the Municipal Project Grants for highway/public works types of activities in the amount of $786,000.

But Delaney doesn’t see those funds being withheld.

Malinka said next year’s library budget had the new request of Sunday hours cut, leaving her request a “status-quo” budget with no other new requests from this operating year. She’s hoping she can fill the two positions she lost in next year’s budget.

Delaney said it was too early to tell what programs and services will be allocated for next year’s budget as the board of finance is holding its hearings of requests by town departments next week. He too encouraged residents to speak at meetings on what services they would like implemented or cut.

Finance board Chairman Sam Lomaglio on Tuesday said he would like to devote time to library officials to explain their 2018-19 budget concerns next week during the public hearings.


Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Tuesday, 27 February 2018 21:10. Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2018 22:41.