BERLIN - After voters rejected town budgets again Tuesday, the Board of Finance is discussing eliminating trash collection and other services.
The idea was proposed Wednesday during a special meeting of the board, which is looking to get to a zero-mill tax increase. That will take about $2.2 million in cuts in addition to the $1.5 million made before the second referendum.
“This is on the mayor and the council,” said Chairman Sam Lomaglio. “We produced a responsible budget and both times a political party campaigned against it. They were going for zero. They’re going to get zero. We don’t own the cuts.”
Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Anne Reilly said Thursday that Republicans never ran for election calling for a zero-mill tax increase, instead advocating a minimal increase.
“I’m disgusted with them,” said Mayor Mark Kaczynski Thursday, while calling out Lomaglio and board member Mark Holmes for being “out of step” by making political comments on what should be a non-partisan board. Kaczynski said the board was being childish, “holding their breath and stomping their feet,” blaming others and using scare tactics because they didn’t get what they wanted.
Kaczynski said he thinks voters don’t want as deep a cut as the finance board is proposing.
Lomaglio responded, saying he hasn’t been political other than saying Republicans campaigned against the budget. The Republican majority on the council has been childish, by advocated against the budgets in the run-up to the first referendum and haven’t given the finance board direction, Lomaglio said.
He said the finance board had proposed responsible budgets that were shot down by voters, so that’s why the zero-mill increase is being proposed.
Holmes had no comment in response to Kaczynski.
Eliminating trash pickup would save about $1.5 million, as homeowners would have to find their own trash disposal service.
Holmes said after the meeting that residents of other towns who pay for trash pickup spend about $100 a quarter on it.
Board member Sal Bordonaro said eliminating trash is not a true cut because it passes the cost on to the homeowners.
Among other potential cuts on the general government side are turning off every other streetlight; eliminating senior center transportation; having day games only at Sage Park; and reducing library funding for books and periodicals.
Also among the proposed cuts is $300,000 from the $43.6 million education budget.
Lomaglio said he spoke to school board president Matt Tencza, who told Lomaglio the cuts would mean reducing sports at the middle school and high school, a special education program and music and art at the elementary schools.
Tencza said Thursday he couldn’t imagine how a $300,000 cut, in addition to the $250,000 cut the education budget received before referendum, would affect the school district. Lomaglio said he’s trying to talk to Tencza on ways to avoid that deep a cut.
The board will be holding another special meeting on Tuesday, May 29. A public hearing to discuss the cuts is tentatively set for Monday, June 4, at McGee Middle School.
Lomaglio added. Lomaglio said no proposed cuts are final until after the hearing, at which he said the board would listen to residents concerns and make changes if they attend.
The council can only accept or reduce the budgets, not put anything back in before adopting them, unless it rejects the budgets, which would trigger a joint meeting of the council and finance board. Then, nine votes would be needed to adopt each budget, otherwise the budgets sent to the second referendum would be adopted.
Kaczynski said he would reject the budget if the proposed cuts stick.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.