Lamont budget details worry Southington, Plainville officials

Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2019 20:51
Written by BRIAN M. JOHNSON

@brianjohnsonBP

Two area towns see Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget impacting them differently, with Southington bracing for a net loss of funding and Plainville expecting to see a slight increase.

Southington

In Southington, Lamont’s budget was a topic of discussion at a recent Town Council meeting.

Chairman Chris Palmieri noted that, while the town would be receiving a $65,548 increase to its general education funding, it was having $47,150 cut from its capital projects budget. Also, the town would be contributing $270,241 more to teacher retirement costs.

“This is $251,843 short where we were last year with state funds,” said Palmieri. “However, we were very fortunate because other communities were hit a lot harder than Southington was.”

Councilor Mike Riccio said that, at the same time taxpayers would have to pay to absorb this amount, they would also be facing new taxes on many items that they had never been taxed on before. He urged the council to consider this when voting on the budget.

Councilor Tom Lombardi said Monday that, while the town was going to have to pay $271,241 more for teacher retirement costs this year, that number is expected to nearly double to $530,000 next year.

“The good news is that they didn’t cut state aid. The bad news is that we got hit in two different ways,” said Town Manager Mark Sciota. “Between the teacher retirement costs and retirement payments for municipal employees there’s about $1.2 million in costs to the taxpayer that we weren’t expecting in December.”

Sciota said that his proposed budget accounts for these additional retirement expenses and also has $850,000 set aside as a contingency fund to offset any additional potential costs from the governor’s budget.

“I hope that this is the floor,” he said. “If it is, we can live with it. If they give us back some money, great. But it will be a real problem if there are further cuts from the state after we pass our budget.”

Sciota added that, like many members of the council, he is concerned about what impact statewide tolls and more sales taxes will have on businesses and residents.

Plainville

In Plainville, Town Manager Robert E. Lee said that the town is expected to see a slight decrease in Local Capital Improvement Program funding - $21,000. However, the town’s education cost sharing funds will be going up by $194,110.

The town will also have to shoulder a portion of teacher retirement costs. That comes out to $107,640.

“We are still seeing a slight net gain of $65,681,” said Lee. “I’m just glad that we aren’t one of the towns that is seeing a decrease to our education funding. We’re one of 35 towns that will see an increase.”

However, Lee said that after the teacher retirement costs are taken into consideration, the Board of Education’s proposed budget is being altered from a 3 percent increase to a 3.23 percent increase.

“The gains we would get won’t offset those costs,” said Lee. “The council will look into the total and make a decision.”

Lee said that he has been in talks with town councilors about other aspects of the budget and how they will potentially affect taxpayers.

“Tolls won’t be coming for another two to three years,” said Lee. “I’m sure there will be a discussion about the sales taxes, but unemployment is going down and Social Security is increasing by 2.8 percent - the highest it has been in years. I’m hoping that these positive economic affects will offset any negative impacts.”

Lee said he had also met with local legislators, but it’s too early to know if additional costs might be coming.

“Our council, in the past, has been reluctant to include a contingency fund in the budget and has used unassigned fund balance,” Lee said. “They feel that’s what the fund balance is there for.”

Lee is expected to present his budget at the next meeting of the Town Council.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Plainville, Southington Herald on Tuesday, 26 February 2019 20:51. Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2019 20:53.