Taxes will not be going up in Shelton in the new fiscal year, but the Board of Education (BOE) may have to resort to layoffs.
That’s essentially the result of Thursday night’s vote by the Board of Aldermen to approve a $120.76 million municipal budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin on July 1.
The aldermen approved an overall budget that is about $70,000 higher than what was originally proposed by Mayor Mark Lauretti, and followed Lauretti’s recommendation to give the BOE a $1.5 million budget increase (or 2.2%).
BOE officials have said they needed at least a $3.25 million increase (or 3.6%) to avoid possible layoffs and other cutbacks.
The city’s tax rate will not change, remaining at 22.31 mills.
Having an unchanged tax rate, aldermanic President John Anglace said, will add “stability to our business community, allowing them to grow and hopefully create much needed jobs. And it helps Shelton families manage their living expenses.”
The approved budget will “give our citizens one of the most affordable tax rates in Connecticut, without raising taxes,” he said.
Anglace said city officials will provide the BOE with $350,000 outside the operating budget to use on capital expenses. City officials also plan to meet with BOE officials in the coming weeks to discuss various financial issues.
Mark Holden, BOE chairman, said he’s uncertain what BOE expenses could be covered by the $350,000 since there are limited capital-related items in the school budget. Annual software licenses is one possibility, he said.
Capital expenses generally cover long-term infrastructure-related items, such as buildings, technology, equipment, furniture and vehicles.
Holden said the BOE’s goal is to limit any need for laying off teachers or other staff members when the new school year begins in the fall.
“At this point in time, I’m of the opinion we will end up with layoffs,” Holden said after the Board of Aldermen’s budget vote.
“I’d love to do zero [layoffs]. I’d love to get there, but I don’t think we’ll get there,” he said.
At an informational meeting during the budget season, BOE officials had warned from 10 to 16 teachers could lose their jobs if more money wasn’t allocated to the schools.
BOE officials also said the school district may need to re-institute pay-to-participate fees for sports and certain other extracurricular activities.
Finn speaks against budget
Alderman Jack Finn (First Ward) was the only alderman to speak out against the budget before the vote was taken. “I cannot support this budget,” Finn, the lone Democrat on the board, told his colleagues.
Finn said the BOE should receive more money, and during budget workshops had suggested making cuts in various municipal departments to come up with almost $950,000 in additional funds to give to the school system without raising taxes.
It was unclear how Finn’s vote on the budget was recorded at the Thursday night meeting, however. When the actual vote was taken, he appeared to fail to indicate his opposition.
Finn said after the meeting that he meant to vote no and believes that is how his vote will be recorded because of his earlier comments during the meeting.
How the aldermen voted
The five aldermen present, all Republicans, who voted in favor of the budget are Anglace (Third Ward), Stanley Kudej (Second Ward), Eric McPherson (Second Ward), John Papa (Fourth Ward) and Anthony Simonetti (First Ward).
Absent were Republican Aldermen Lynn Farrell (Third Ward) and Noreen McGorty (Fourth Ward), both of whom had to attend family graduation ceremonies and had informed Anglace they therefore wouldn’t be at the meeting.
Lauretti, a Republican, was present and chaired the meeting as mayor but made no comment on the budget.
Anglace praises city educators but questions school spending; click below: