NEWINGTON - Town Manager Tonya Lane detailed her proposed 2018-19 budget at the Newington Chamber of Commerce State of the Town breakfast at Newington High School on Thursday, March 1.
After a presentation by Mayor Roy Zartarian on business activity within the past year, Lane presented a status report before talking her proposed 8.1 percent tax rate increase in next year’s budget.
“This magnitude of an increase is larger than any I can remember and I am not pleased to be the town manager to propose it,” said Lane. “But I do think that acknowledging reality and facing it is the right thing to do. And believe it or not, due to the significant cuts that have been made in previous years, there was not much left to cut to get the (tax rate) percent increase to 8.1 percent.”
The budget includes no new positions, programs or services, Lane said, noting that $148,000 had been cut from department requests.
The bulk of the increase, or 36 percent of it, stems from an over $3 million reduction in state aid the town received this year. The next biggest increase, 35 percent, is from the school side of this year’s budget, at over $2.8 million.
“The town absorbed most of the cuts in educational cost sharing in 2017-18,” said Lane. “Now its time for the board of ed to look within itself to determine how to meet all that the state requires of it, while having fewer funds to work with.”
With an expected $1.4 million cut in ECS grant funding from the state, the school board increase comes after Lane reduced it from a 4.57 percent increase to a 4 percent one, or just over $400,000.
Five percent of the increase comes from an increase in utility costs - which resulted from an 11.1 percent rate or $433,750 increase from the Metropolitan District Commission for water and sewage.
Eleven percent of the increase comes from a $1 million use of the fund balance.
“This is because for the past two years we have been able to allocate $2 million from the fund balance to balance our budget,” Lane said. “We don’t have that ability this year we can only allocated $1 million to make up for that difference in this tax increase.”
The remaining increases come from a $630,000 increase in insurance and benefits, or 7 percent; a $501,000 increase in contractual obligations, or 5 percent; a $280,000 increase to cover cost of the Elderly Circuit Breaker program the state is no longer paying for, or 3 percent; and $165,000 in miscellaneous expenses, or 2 percent.
“I believe this budget is fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” said Lane. “My hope is by taking this hit all at once, accepting the short-term pain, it will restore us to a strong financial footing and position us well for the future.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.