Shelton A&T Dems demand $92K in answers

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Michelle Laubin

Michelle Laubin

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SHELTON — Democratic Board of Apportionment amd Taxation members say some $92,000 in budget overspending is a violation of budget allocations and have demanded payment be on the board’s next agenda.

Michelle Laubin, Joe Knapik and Steve Guralnick made the request Feb. 6 to Mayor Mark Lauretti at what was the board’s first meeting in nearly a year.

Knapik said that, by city charter, the overspending in the various departments should have come before A&T and asked Lauretti for an explanation as to why they were not on the Feb. 6 agenda. Laubin asked that the items be placed on the next agenda.

“I am not prepared to answer on the $92,000,” said Lauretti. “Sometimes some line items are posted erroneously. Sometimes there is a miscalculation of payment in the budgeting process, which can generate a shortfall. These occur during the course of a year. There are 1,500 line items.”

At the January Board of Aldermen Finance Committee meeting, Aldermen President John Anglace Jr. called the $92,000 number “overstated.” He said the committee examined each item, deciding to send only what it felt necessary to A&T for approval. One such item was $7,000 from the building maintenance account — a transfer from from regular payroll to overtime pay. A&T approved that transfer at its Feb. 6 meeting.

“I have to chuckle to myself … for years people sit here and scrutinize the city side when the Board of Education (budget) has the majority of the money and no one asks two questions about how they spend it. This is ridiculous,” added Lauretti.

Laubin said that the Board of Education has monthly finance committee meetings where such questions are asked.

“Are they really asked?” Lauretti responded.

Newly elected A&T Chair Jay Francino-Quinn said that, during his time with the Board of Education between 2011 and 2015, such questions were not regularly asked.

The Democratic members have for months demanded answers from Lauretti and city corporation counsel Fran Teodosio on why the board’s meetings are regularly canceled, calling the cancellations “a violation of the city charter.”

Lauretti has stated the meetings were not needed because of lack of business.

The list the committee was given included $21,267 for elections, $15,671 for the Conservation Commission, $16,025 for Planning and Zoning and monies in other accounts including fire marshal, accounting and control, management information services and community development.

Laubin first demanded answers on why the city spent $92,599 in overages before the committee’s January meeting. She wanted information for expenditures between the beginning of the fiscal year and Dec. 24, 2019. The January meeting was never held.

“Of course, this list does not include any overages that may have been incurred in the intervening month, or any of the lines that may be in danger of being overspent based on current department projections, so I trust that you will also be conferring with the applicable city departments on any anticipated needs that they may have to move money that is not noted here, and will also add those items to the agenda,” wrote Laubin in an email to Finance Director Paul Hiller in January.

Lauretti said that those items not resolved would be on A&T’s next agenda.

When Laubin asked how any of the items could be resolved, since the charter demands A&T vote on each one, Lauretti said that A&T’s role is handling interdepartment not intradepartment transfers, and some of the items in question may fall under intradepartment.

All of the items — along with any other budget matters — were the focus of the Board of Aldermen Finance Committee last month. On the $92,000 number, Anglace stated, “That’s not what it is. We are not going to focus on the number. We are going to focus on the specifics.”

The aldermen’s Finance Committee determined that $15,671 for Conservation and $16,025 for Planning and Zoning were improperly listed numbers — essentially a financial discrepancy. Corrections have since been made, Hiller told the aldermen.

In other business, Francino-Quinn was elected A&T chairman, with Lauretti breaking a 3-3 tie on the initial vote. Knapik had nominated Laubin for the board’s top seat. The board’s makeup, by charter, is three Democrats and three Republicans, with the mayor’s vote designed to break any ties.

The board also approved a $40,000 transfer from regular payroll to part-time payroll for the building department. That vote was also 4-3, with Lauretti joining the three Republicans in approving the transfer.

The board also approved three other transfers:

$3,000 from regular payroll to City Hall parts in the highways and bridges budget;

$1,000 from inoculation to veterinarian and $1,000 from printing and advertising to veterinarian in the city Animal Shelter account; and

$7,000 from regular payroll to overtime pay and $400 from regular payroll to mileage in the building maintenance account.