NEW BRITAIN - Mayor Erin Stewart proposed a $242.51 million municipal budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20 on Wednesday night.
Despite a 2 percent increase from the current year’s budget of $237.72, the mayor’s recommendation calls for no tax increase, funds education, and keeps the city’s Rainy Day Fund untouched.
“We left no stone unturned,” said Stewart. “We made changes to more than 200 line items, including reductions to 122 areas. This is a balanced budget that has no tax increase and provides level funding to city departments, keeping things status quo. This will ensure continuity in the delivery of services and maintain our quality of life.”
The increase in spending is a result of several factors that Stewart said are beyond her control. Some of the major contributors are a $4.5 million payment to the city’s medical self-insurance fund - a result of projected claims provided by the city’s insurance broker and a state-mandated payment of $1.5 million to the state’s Municipal Employee Retirement System. The budget also accounts for a $457,000 increase in medical premiums, $884,000 in contractual obligations, and $500,000 for shortfalls in overtime costs.
To feed the budget increase, the proposal recommends that $529,000 be used from the Tax Stabilization Fund created by Stewart in 2015, in addition to an anticipated increase of $2.8 million from tax collections that Stewart says was made possible by a third-party collection. The budget also eliminates five unfilled positions including an assistant fire chief, two telecommunicators, an equipment operator, and a parks foreperson. No new positions were created in the proposal.
The budget fully funds the Board of Education’s requested increase of about $5 million and an additional $1.73 million. The funding comes from a $3.1 million increase due to the passing on the Special Education Excess Cost Grant aid and $3.9 million from state Education Cost Sharing Grant that was a result of a change in the state formula, said Director of Finance Lori Granato.
Last month, the finance board drew controversy after its proposal called for an increase of more than 5.6 percent from this year’s budget of $237.7 million. The tax rate proposed was 60.91 mills – a hike of about 10 mills.
“It is now up to the Common Council to consider the budget I have put forward,” said Stewart. “It is my hope that they will take their responsibility as elected officials seriously. This is the most important responsibility as elected officials.”
The Common Council must adopt a budget by June 5. A public hearing on the budget will be announced in the coming days.