NEWINGTON - Four residents contributed to the first public hearing on the townâ€™s 2018-19 budget, which proposes an 8 percent tax increase.
Town Manager Tanya Lane had presented her $120.6 million proposal at the Town Councilâ€™s last meeting, calling for a 4.2 percent increase over the prior yearâ€™s spending. The average homeowner would see a $479 hike on his or her July 2018 tax bill, if the proposed rate of 39.54 mills - up 2.95 mills from last year - moves forward.
â€śThis magnitude of increase is higher than I can remember and as I said in the State of the Town, I am not happy to be the town manager to propose this,â€ť Lane said, emphasizing that the increase is not driven by expenses, but by significant revenue loss.
Three residents addressed the budget during the hearing and one submitted letter was read into the record.
â€śI donâ€™t envy any of you for the difficult task at hand,â€ť said John Bachand. â€śIâ€™m confident you will try to pare that budget down to at least half of that 8 percent.â€ť
Newingtonâ€™s municipal aid from the state is set to be $14.3 million this year, $3.1 million less than last year. Additionally, the townâ€™s grand list saw an increase of just half a percent in 2017. These factors are driving the increase, along with contractual obligations, new state mandates, higher sewer and water fees and a 10 percent hike in employee medical insurance.
Lane and her staff worked to minimize the impact, asking town department heads to submit flat-line budgets. The cumulative budget put forward reflected zero new initiatives. Still, this only accomplished so much.
â€śIf the grand list or municipal aid does not increase, the only revenue that can be used to balance the budget is a tax increase,â€ť she explained.
Resident Gary Bolles called that news â€śquite a hitâ€ť and asking councilors to restrict the budget allotment to the Board of Education.
Letter writer David Capella wrote that elected officials should consider resigning if they canâ€™t prevent a tax increase.
â€śIt is time the government starts to represent the people of this community and stop with the year after year increases in spending,â€ť he said.
Lane said two positive points in her budget were a $14,000 reduction to facility management due to limited improvements being made to Town Hall and a $38,000 decrease in the townâ€™s retirement contribution for employees, due to favorable market returns.
â€śWe have maintained the decreases achieved in the last budget while upholding our continued commitment to maintaining quality services,â€ť she added. â€śI anticipate achieving this goal again this year. However, further reductions could affect personnel which would definitely affect the delivery of service and the quality of life for our Newington residents.â€ť
Questions about the budget can be submitted by email, to Budget18-19Questions@newingtonct.gov. The next hearing on the budget is set for Tuesday, April 3.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.