NEWINGTON - There was quite a showing at the final public hearing on the townâ€™s 2018-19 budget, at which several causes emerged as valuable to residents during this especially challenging fiscal year.
The Town Council has been working to finalize its $118.8 million tentative budget, which would impose a $327 tax increase on the average Newington homeowner. At the same time councilors are being urged to protect Newington schools and groups like Newington Community Television.
Town government operations total $36.7 million, a 4 percent increase over last yearâ€™s allotment. The Board of Educationâ€™s request has been cut by $750,000, which still represents a 3.5 percent increase, totaling $72.85 million.
Well over a dozen people spoke on behalf of NCTV, which provides live and on-demand programming on the local television network and online, including film coverage of events, school and civic activities and town meetings. The nonprofit organization was just selected as the townâ€™s Volunteer of the Year.
NCTV Secretary Sandy Austin-Goldstein called her group â€śNewingtonâ€™s photo albumâ€ť - requesting its budget be restored after it was cut by two-thirds in the town managerâ€™s proposal.
â€śWe protect and preserve memories made at events and things going on in town,â€ť she pointed out.
Many others went on to share the role the resource plays in their lives, particularly when they canâ€™t attend a meeting or event in person.
â€śTheyâ€™re all volunteers, just like the council,â€ť said Sue Mazzoccoli, the widow of former mayor Don Mazzoccoli, who died in 2016 after a long battle with ALS.
Her comments were made over the phone, making it entirely possible she had been watching the meeting on the cable access network.
â€śI love NCTV,â€ť Mazzoccoli added. â€śIt gives access and transparency to town government.â€ť
Former town councilor Dave Nagel and his wife, Jerilyn, both submitted letters that were read into the record, also supporting the organization.
â€śEquipment replacement and updates are vital to keeping NCTV on the air,â€ť Dave wrote.
Others backed the BOE, which is working to meet school needs while grappling with state-mandated funding requirements and contractual obligations.
â€śMy dream scenario is that the council approves the Board of Edâ€™s budget request unanimously,â€ť Neil Ryan said. â€śHowever, Iâ€™m not holding my breath.â€ť
Ryan added that he would consider any resulting tax increase â€śan investment in my town and money well spent.â€ť
Several people addressed the upcoming renovation to Newington Town Hall, which voters approved last fall. Although town officials promised it wouldnâ€™t raise taxes, the multi-million-dollar project now seems more overwhelming than ever, they told councilors.
â€śYou canâ€™t take on a project that size and scope and expect it not to have an impact on taxes,â€ť William Lanza said.
Both political parties announced their decisions to hold off on revising funding allotments.
â€śWe want to take time to digest the comments, evaluate them and make the right decisions,â€ť Majority Leader Carol Anest explained. â€śStay tuned.â€ť
Changes will be proposed and voted on April 16, when the council finalizes the budget and sets a new mill rate.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.