BERLIN - The Board of Finance meets tonight to discuss further cuts to the 2018-19 general government and education budgets.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the John “Doc” McIntosh room of Town Hall, 240 Kensington Road.
The $44.4 million general government and $43.6 million education budgets were rejected at referendum for a second time, with voters indicating that both were still too big.
Eliminating trash pickup, turning off streetlights and cutting Parks & Recreation Department programs are among the possibilities being considered for $2.2 million in reductions, aimed at producing a a zero-mill tax rate increase. Around $1.5 million had been cut from the budgets before the second referendum.
“This is on the mayor and the council,” said finance board Chairman Sam Lomaglio at a meeting last Wednesday. “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 Republicans never ran for election calling for a zero-mill tax increase, just a reasonable one.
“The voters have the right to speak. If (the finance board members) don’t like the voters, then maybe they should think about stepping down,” said Republican Mayor Mark Kaczynski, sharply criticizing Lomaglio and board member Mark Holmes for their comments.
Kaczynski said finance board members were being childish, blaming others for not getting what they wanted, and that residents don’t want cuts as deep as those being discussed.
“We are elected officials,” said Lomaglio, adding that the mayor has no right to tell finance board members to resign. He added that, in Berlin, the position of mayor is ceremonial. He said the mayor’s role is only that of a tiebreaker on council votes, and that it was Kaczynski who was acting childish.
“I am perplexed by the recent comments of the Mayor,” texted Holmes. He said the finance board proposed responsible budgets and the mayor’s party campaigned against them. Holmes also said the mayor was acting.
Also among the proposed cuts is $300,000 from the eduction budget, on top of a $250,000 cut made before the second referendum.
Sports at the middle school and high school, a special education program and music and art at the elementary schools are being eyed for reduction or elimination by school board President Matt Tencza, Lomaglio said, adding that he would be talking with Tencza about softening the cuts.
The Board of Finance will hold a public hearing on the cuts Monday, June 4, at McGee Middle School.
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.
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 last budget sent to the council will be adopted
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.