Shelton Apportionment & Taxation board passes unchanged budget to Aldermen

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Democrat Board of Apportionment and Taxation members’ attempts to add more money to the mayor’s proposed education budget failed and the original plan is now with the aldermen.

A&T failed, with two tie votes along party lines, to approve any recommendations to Mayor Mark Lauretti’s proposed 2021-22 fiscal year $128,225,767 city budget, a $43,728 increase from the proposed spending plan.

If the mayor’s budget is approved as proposed, the mill rate would be 22.03, a 1.74 reduction. The proposed spending plan projects a 98.85 percent tax collection rate, according to Finance Director Paul Hiller.

The budget is before the aldermen, which held its first budget workshop Tuesday. The aldermen’s budget public hearing is May 12 at 6:30 p.m. The joint Board of Education-Board of Aldermen budget workshop is May 18, followed by one more workshop May 20 and a final vote on May 27. All meetings are online on the city website and live in the City Hall auditorium.

In A&T’s third budget workshop — one that was to have department heads present to answer questions — A&T Chair Jay Francino-Quinn opened the session calling for a motion recommending that Lauretti’s budget plan be sent along to the aldermen unchanged.

The motion was made days after the Board of Education presented its budget request for about $75 million, a $2.2 million, or 2.99 percent, increase from the previous year.

School officials said that the proposal simply maintains present staff and programs, and without at least $1.1 million, the district would not be able to cover contractual obligations and could face potential staff cuts.

Lauretti’s proposed education budget stands at $73 million, a $135,000 increase from the present fiscal year’s budget but more than $2 million less than the board requested.

A&T member Michelle Laubin amended Francino-Quinn's motion. Her goal, she said, was to cover teacher contracts, which have already been negotiated, and eliminate students’ pay to participate.

That motion failed, with members voting 3-3 along party lines. Lauretti, who acts as the tiebreaker for the board of three Democrats and three Republicans, was not present in person or on the phone.

After several attempts to adjourn the meeting by Francino-Quinn failed, Laubin offered a second, stand-alone motion in which A&T would move the mayor’s budget as proposed to the aldermen with the new, lower mill rate but that a calculated $1.6-million surplus in the general fund would be reallocated to the Board of Education.

That motion, too, ended in a 3-3 vote, along party lines, with no discussion. After the vote, Francino-Quinn adjourned the meeting, but not until Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr., had to assist the chair with specifics of Robert’s Rules.

Laubin said she felt the three A&T Republicans "did not care enough about their responsibilities as elected officials to read the budget and the backup materials, ask intelligent questions and come prepared to debate the merits of the budget that had been presented.”

The three A&T Republicans, Laubin said, came to the table with their “marching orders” from Lauretti to simply vote against any alternative ideas Democrat members presented without due consideration, “and they followed those orders perfectly.

“They did not even care enough to debate the merits of the two motions I offered,” Laubin added, “either one of which would have funded the teachers’ salary contract and had enough money left over to get rid of pay to play, if you combine that funding with the $135,000 that the mayor proposed to allocate to the BOE this year, without raising taxes, and without touching a single dollar of funding for any other department in the city.”

Francino-Quinn did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com