BERLIN - A public hearing on the Board of Finance proposed budget changes in response to two failed referendums is at 7 p.m. tonight at McGee Middle School.
The hearing comes after the finance board and Town Council held a joint meeting Thursday to discuss the finance board’s proposed zero-mill tax increase, or $2.2 million in cuts. Those cuts include removing trash collection, shutting off street lights and reducing other town services.
No consensus came from the meeting, but all participants said they were against the removing of trash collection, a savings of $1.2 million, except for finance board member Kevin Guite. He said it was a luxury for residents, other towns have residents pay for it privately and a removing it was a big way to reduce the tax levy.
Board of Finance Chairman Sam Lomaglio said attaining the zero-mill increase, isn’t realistic.
He said Sunday he is looking for support from his board for restoring cuts the education budget received prior to the last referendum, in the amount of $300,000.
Republican members comprising the majority on the Town Council said they were against zero-mill increase during the Thursday meeting.
Instead, they were in favor of a proposal by Finance Director Kevin Delaney that gives a portion of $680,000 in additional Education Cost Sharing funds from the town to the Board of Education to avoid a penalty of possibly underfunding it.
It was unclear exactly how much funds the education budget needs to avoid the penalty, but Republican Mayor Mark Kaczynski, said he would like to use some of the other funds remaining after avoiding the penalty to reduce the tax levy and put the rest into savings.
Democratic Town Council members said they were opposed to any further cuts to both the education and general government budgets.
Lomaglio and members of the council from both parties, said after the meeting it was nice to hear people’s opinions on the budget, but were disappointed nothing beyond that, like an agreement, was reached.
The board will finalize their proposals and vote Monday night after the hearing to send their recommendations to the council, who will then have five days to accept, reduce or reject the budgets. A rejection would trigger another joint finance board meeting in which nine votes are needed to adopt a budget.
The $44.4 million general government and $43.6 million education budgets rejected at the last referendum, in which voters said they were too high in response to advisory questions, had a .95 mills, or a 3 percent tax increase.
Those budgets include the removal of $8 million from town department requests, which started the budget process, according to the town’s finance department.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.