Public hearing allows Shelton residents to offer input on budget

The public will have its say on the proposed 2015-16 Shelton budget at a Board of Aldermen public hearing on Tuesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium.

The hearing is intended to let residents voice their views about the proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Mayor Mark Lauretti’s proposed $120.7-million budget would keep the tax rate unchanged while overall spending would increase by 1.7%, including a 2.2% jump for the schools.

The Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T) has increased Lauretti’s budget by $200,000 on the municipal side, but took no official action on the Board of Education (BOE) allocation due to a 3-3 split between A&T Republicans and Democrats.

More for the schools?

Democrats want to give the BOE $1.75 million more than Republican A&T members and Lauretti, who is a Republican.

BOE officials have requested a 5% budget increase, and said anything less than 3.6% could lead to layoffs of teachers and other staff and the possible return of pay-to participate fees for sports and other extracurricular activities.

Aldermen begin budget workshops

Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen began its process of scrutinizing the budget with a workshop on May 4. The aldermanic workshops will resume after next week’s public hearing on the budget.

The aldermen will finalize the budget and set the new mill rate by the end of May, with Lauretti having the ability to veto all or part of their budget actions.
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“A&T did not adopt a budget, so we’ll work from the mayor’s budget.”

— John Anglace

Board of Aldermen President

At the May 4 meeting, aldermen focused on expenditures by various departments, but did not get to the school budget. No formal votes were taken.

“A&T did not adopt a budget, so we’ll work from the mayor’s budget,” aldermanic President John Anglace said at the start of the workshop.

Finn wants cuts on city side

Alderman Jack Finn, the lone Democrat on the eight-member Board of Aldermen, suggested reducing dozens of line items in almost all department budgets. The cuts ranged from $75 to $300,000, depending on the line item.

Most of the suggested reductions were based on line items having not been fully spent in previous years. “I’m pointing out what they didn’t use,” Finn said when recommending a reduction in one department.

“This department returned over $1 million last year,” Finn said at another point.

He later said he expected to offer reductions totaling about $939,000, which then could be given to the BOE to partially close the gap that is worrying school officials.

Finn said his suggested cuts on the municipal side of the budget would generate more funds for the BOE without the need for a tax increase.

Lauretti has recommended a $1.5-million increase for the BOE. The BOE is looking for at least a $3.25-million increase to avoid layoffs or other cutbacks, so Finn’s approach would provide more than half of that money.

‘The hatchet man’

Alderman John Papa questioned why Finn was proposing so many small cuts. “We’re talking chump change,” he said.

Some of the Republican aldermen suggested Finn cut money from larger departments, so the totals would be greater. “I will,” he responded.

“You should work for [Democratic Gov.] Malloy the way you’re cutting this budget,” Papa told Finn. He also jokingly starting calling Finn “the hatchet man.”

Papa said exactly how much funding will be needed for some line items is hard to know in advance, and Finn’s approach would leave no money for leeway.

Anglace said Finn’s suggested cuts might not make sense for certain line items because more money may be needed.

When they questioned if all the different cuts would add up to much, Finn assured them it would equal almost $1 million.