After close vote, Shelton oversight board gets longer budget look

Shelton City Hall.

Shelton City Hall.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — John Belden Jr. broke party lines Friday to provide the Board of Apportionment and Taxation at least one more week to review the mayor’s proposed budget.

Belden, a Republican, joined Democrats Michelle Laubin and Steve Guralnick in the virtual A&T meeting Friday afternoon in voting to table A&T Chair Jay Francino-Quinn's motion to vote on sending Mayor Mark Lauretti’s budget as presented to the Board of Aldermen.

Democrat Joe Knapik, who was on the phone for the virtual meeting, was asked for his vote but did not respond. Republican John Boyko joined fellow GOP member Francino-Quinn in voting against Laubin’s motion to table the vote.

“The budget is the same (as this fiscal year) … it is status quo,” said Francino-Quinn, “so I think it behooves us to go ahead and just move it on.”

Francino-Quinn then motioned for a vote on the budget as presented. Lauretti’s proposed 2020-21 fiscal year budget stands at $128,182,039, a $610,565 increase from the present year’s spending plan and which maintains the 22.42 mill rate.

Laubin opened the meeting asking for budget documents and department head backup, which none of the members had received before Friday’s meeting. She also asked that department heads be available for questions virtually if necessary.

“There is no reason why we can’t schedule workshops,” said Laubin, adding that A&T has one month before it is required to submit a budget proposal to the aldermen. “I am prepared to use the next month productively … to find out where modifications can be made to the budget proposal.”

The workshops, Laubin said, would allow A&T members to fulfill their responsibility “on behalf of the public to get this information out to the public.”

The Board of Aldermen, in its vote on April 21 establishing the budget schedule, stated that meetings with department heads would be suspended. But Laubin called the aldermen’s ruling a “substantial overreach.”

Lauretti asked that A&T members send any questions to Finance Director Paul Hiller by Wednesday. Lauretti said that would allow enough time for answers prior to another budget workshop tentatively set for May 8.

Lauretti, who was in the City Hall auditorium for the meeting which was live streamed, told all A&T members he would have the budget and all necessary documents sent to their homes this weekend. At that point, Laubin motioned to table Francino-Quinn's motion to vote.

With the vote 2-2, Belden was asked for his vote and sided with the Democrats, saying the board should be able to examine the budget requests before making a final decision.

“Keep in mind, the numbers are the same numbers … 99 percent the same … as this year,” said Lauretti of his budget proposal. “There is a lot of uncertainty on my part on the revenues to be received.”

The Board of Aldermen earlier this month approved a new budget calendar which does not include a public hearing as in years past. The Board of A&T must submit a recommended budget to the Board of Aldermen by June 1. The aldermen will complete their review by June 14, with a budget adoption no later than June 30.

Residents can submit comments via email to Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr. said residents can email comments through May 28. The comments will be posted online as well.

This could be the last time the Board of A&T deliberates a city budget, with the Charter Revision Commission considering eliminating the board. The charter commission has not yet completed final recommendations, which will then be sent to the Board of Aldermen.

The commission, during its April 6 virtual meeting, unanimously rejected suggestions to expand A&T’s financial authority and oversight of the all-Republican aldermanic board and mayor, instead proposing to abolish the board altogether and shift the budget line-item transfer power to the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee.

The commission is composed of four Republicans, two unaffiliated voters and one Democrat.

Charter Revision Commission Chair Dan Debicella said the final revision proposals will go before voters this November.