Since early January, our Board of Finance and Taxation has been meeting to hear from department heads about their budget requests for the 2020-21 fiscal year. I, too, have met several times with my Finance Department budget team to forecast out over the next several years and to prepare for a budget recommendation.
My goal, as it is each and every year, is to keep the tax rate stable, while at the same time maintaining the current level of services that residents and businesses have come to expect from our local government.
Under the Governor’s proposed budget, New Britain is set to receive $111.26 million in state aid-that’s if the legislature approves of the spending plan as it is. This is an increase of $3.89 million over what we received in the current fiscal year. This is the second year in a row that our state aid amount is increasing. All of which is set to go to the Consolidated School District of New Britain.
As a City, we are incredibly reliant upon funding from the state to help balance our budget. Out of the $111.26 million we are set to receive, $95.77 million goes towards education and represents 86 percent of our state aid. Additionally, as a direct result of my administration’s proactive approach, we receive millions of other dollars in state grants.
As a reminder, the budget process works like this: The Board of Finance and Taxation hears directly from department heads about their proposed budget requests, and then they develop an overall proposed budget, which is presented to me. The Board of Finance and Taxation is only one step in a multi-layered process that stretches from January until June.
Then it’s my time to get to work. I work with our finance team to review the proposal and come up with my own recommendation. During each budget cycle, we typically make millions of dollars in reductions to keep the price of living in New Britain affordable. A recommendation is then given to the Common Council, who has until early June to adopt or reject my recommended budget.
The cost of services, fuel, and government inevitably go up each year (an average of 3 percent) – an unfortunate fact of life, but as the City’s chief elected official, it is my duty to manage these costs at a responsible level. I’m a taxpayer too. Believe me, I don’t want to see taxes go up either. I will always fight for hard-working taxpayers.
We have been working hard over the last several years to find creative ways to continue funding our programs and services. Our SMART City Committee, for example, has paved the way for energy-saving measures like LED light conversions, solar panels, and a fuel cell. We’ve also implemented other initiatives, like partnering with TaxServ and Tax Management Associates to retrieve back taxes that we are owed. Every year it gets harder and harder, but in all, these measures will help save taxpayers millions of dollars.
In the coming weeks, I urge you to pay attention and get involved in the budget process. Ask questions. Email me. Tell me what you’d like to see reduced to avoid tax increases.
I look forward to sharing my taxpayer friendly, responsible, and balanced budget with all of you this spring, but for now, it’s time to get to work!
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.