PLAINVILLE – In response to state funding shortfalls, the Town Council reluctantly but unanimously approved a 0.75 mill tax increase and other cuts at Monday’s meeting.
Town Manager Robert E. Lee said that the town was faced with a $1.9 million reduction in state aid and that, due to this information coming so late into the fiscal year, there were not many options. Additionally, the town was faced with significantly more actual claims for its health insurance fund than expected, leaving a $2.3 million deficit there.
“A workshop was held in which we were able to find $677,300 in expenditures savings/reduction for the current fiscal year,” said Lee. “The Board of Education agreed to spend $220,000 less, $280,000 comes out of debt services, $73,000 comes out of the capital budget and almost $100,000 comes out of the general government. We are taking $2 million out of the town’s unassigned fund balance but that still leaves us with a $1.2 million shortfall.”
Lee said that the 0.75 mill tax increase could make up about $990,000 of this remaining money. People with a home valued at $178,650 would see a 2.3 percent increase in their property taxes or about $94.
“But we still have a $235,000 deficit which we will hopefully still be able to reduce,” said Lee. “People will be getting this supplemental tax bill Feb. 1 and will have 60 days to pay this unexpected addition.”
During public comment, while answering a town charter related question posed by resident John Kisluk, Lee blasted the state for its fiscal decisions.
“This is simply what the state has done for the past 25 years – kick the can down the road and not make tough decisions,” he said. “That is why we are faced with a $4 billion deficit projected for 2020 and 2021. If we don’t raise the mill rate now, we would have to raise it significantly higher later just to get even. Should the state come up with a new budget then that would be taken into account but as things stand we don’t have much choice.”
Councilor Jesse Gnazzo said that while he found the tax increase “unpalatable” it had to be done.
“At certain times you have to make tough choices,” he said. “I just lost my job last week and now I have to pay this bill too.”
Councilor Rosemary Morante praised the town officials for working hard to find what savings they could.
“I feel strongly that in the end this will be in the best interests of the town,” she said.
Councilor Deb Tompkins said that the vote was the “most difficult decision” she has made in three terms on the council.
“It is unfortunately necessary,” she said. “It’s just the way it is; I’m sorry.”
Councilor Scott Saunders said that he “despises” having to raise taxes.
“The legislature and the governor gave us no choice,” he said. “If we don’t do something now then the next couple of years will be even worse.”
Town Council Chair Kathy Pugliese said that it was “not an easy decision.”
“Hopefully things will get better,” she said. “When the state gets hugely in debt it gets pushed down to the local downs. We decided that this is the best we could do with the information we have at this moment.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.