Board's actions would keep slight tax decrease in Lauretti’s budget

The Shelton Board of Apportionment and Taxation (BA&T) has approved a fiscal year 2013-14 budget with the same bottom line as the one proposed by Mayor Mark Lauretti.

The six-member board released an almost $115.5-million spending plan for the next fiscal year at a brief meeting Tuesday night. Board of Aldermen members were present to officially receive the BA&T plan and to hear remarks from the BA&T chairman and vice chairman.

Under both the BA&T and Lauretti proposals, the mill rate would drop from 22.4 mills to 22.3 mills, representing a decrease of 0.45% — or less than a half percent.

Changes in 11 budget line items

The BA&T has made changes in 11 line items in the mayor’s budget, most of them being minor. The most significant one is a $41,860 reduction in the Police Department’s non-sworn officer’s account. Some of the BA&T changes involved adding back money to match a department’s original budget request to Lauretti.

The end result is a budget of $115,492,006, according to BA&T members, which is the exact same amount that had been recommended by Lauretti.

The budget next moves to the aldermen for action. The new fiscal year will begin July 1.

‘Fiscal responsibility’

“This year is proof that fiscal responsibility pays dividends,” said BA&T Chairman Ken Olin, who praised the Lauretti administration’s management of the city.

“The garbage and recycling is a big money maker,” Olin said. “Education’s cooperation with the mayor has never been better. Our education system is improving each year.”

Olin is a Republican, as is Lauretti.

Olin said the BA&T also was suggesting the Board of Education (BOE) have to use $225,000 now in “a special account at Wells Fargo” for operating expenses next year; and that the Echo Hose firehouse floor be inspected and repaired soon. He also there are concerns state funding given to municipalities for local capital improvement projects could be cut when the state budget is finalized.

Filling positions, going digital

Jimmy Tickey, BA&T vice chairman and a Democrat, said the Board of A&T was recommending a balanced budget that addresses the city’s needs and supports specific capital improvements during tough economic times.

Tickey said he wants to see funded positions in the budget filled, noting there now are a number of budgeted municipal jobs that remain vacant. He said “a handful of departments” have been impacted by this approach, leading to “uncertainties” and “confusion” and putting a burden on department heads.

“It would be good budgeting if what we are spending is actually in line with what’s in the budget — so there’s no gray areas,” he said.

Tickey said the time has come for the budget process in the city of Shelton to be on web-based platform, noting the large, printed budget books that now must be carried around during budget season.

He said a digital budgeting system would be secure, more convenient for department heads, more accessible for those in budget-making positions, and save money and paper.

Tickey also noted the city’s six-year capital plan will bring many improvements to Shelton. Projects that would be funded include an irrigation system on the Huntington Green; upgrades such as lighting and fencing to East Village Park; boat ramp and floating dock in Sunnyside area; road at Riverview Park; and roof over the entrance of the Plumb Memorial Library.

No change in school allocation

BOE Chairman Mark Holden was present at the meeting and said he was disappointed the school system wouldn’t receive more funding than was included in Lauretti’s proposal. The BA&T did not change the mayor’s education funding level of $65.4 million, which represents a 2.6% increase for the schools.

Holden said the BOE is facing an $800,000 shortfall in what it needs, although that number has been fluctuating. The BOE won’t save as much as hoped by the city’s purchase of propane-powered buses, and it’s still uncertain how much employee healthcare costs could go up.

The school board had requested a 4.9% spending increase for the new fiscal year.

Tax impact

If the proposed budget should be enacted, someone in Shelton whose home is assessed at $100,000 would see his or her $2,230 tax bill go down by $10; someone whose home is assessed at $150,000 would see the $3,360 tax bill reduced by $15; and someone whose home is assessed at $225,000 would see the $5,040 tax bill go down by $22.

Real estate is assessed at 70% of market value in the state of Connecticut.