SHELTON — Democrats have started a petition calling on residents to demand a more transparent budget process — one that includes joint budget meetings among the boards of Aldermen and Apportionment and Taxation, town departments and the Board of Education.

The petition, created by the Shelton Democratic Town Committee on change.org, states that while the coronavirus pandemic has forced alterations in the budget process, “joint meetings to review the budget are required by our city charter.

“While the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic makes the future uncertain, I feel that is more reason for us to have transparency and accountability in our budget process,” according to the Shelton DTC.

“I’m not playing this game,” said Lauretti. “This is the same budget as last year. I do not respond to people who have no track record ... no experience in budgeting. They want to create an image about someone who is established in terms of transparency.”

No new Board of A&T meeting has been scheduled as of Monday. Lauretti said setting an A&T meeting is up to A&T Chair Jay Francino-Quinn. If A&T were to take no action by May 30, Lauretti said his budget would go to the Board of Aldermen for final adoption.

Controversy has surrounded the budget process since the Democratic members of the Board of A&T left a remote budget meeting, forcing cancellation of a vote to approve Lauretti’s budget as proposed. The Democratic members continue to call for budget sessions with department heads and the Board of Education.

“The school system is the largest part of our budget and taxpayers deserve to hear how a drastic cut for the second year in a row will affect our students and our city,” the DTC posted on its Facebook page. “Demand a public joint meeting between the Boards of Aldermen, Apportionment and Taxation and Education to discuss Mayor Lauretti’s budget cut.”

Lauretti has proposed a budget of $128,182,039, a $610,565 increase from the present year’s budget, which maintains the 22.42 mill rate.

Lauretti’s plan drops the anticipated tax collection rate to 98 percent and reduces the revenue estimate on motor vehicles by $200,000 creating what he called a “significant drop in cash” which will “certainly impact the ability to pay bills for vital services.”

No departments are seeing increases, according to Lauretti, and the hardest hit will be the Board of Education. The Board of Education had proposed a $75,083,945 budget — an increase of $2,318,945, or 3.19 percent. The school budget request maintains present services with money set aside for a new pre-K teacher and curriculum writing.

The Board of Education must now find some $2.9 million in reductions to bring the budget number to that used during the current fiscal year.

The petition states that the Board of Education budget represents the biggest portion of the budget and the success of the school system has a large effect on the prosperity of the city and Shelton residents.

“Good schools have a direct beneficial effect on property values and the tax base, helping to keep our taxes low,” the petition states. “Therefore, we believe it is important that our elected officials have a public conversation on the budget cut that has been imposed on the school system via flat funding last year and proposed again this year.

“Budget cuts do not only take the form of reducing the amount of money in an appropriation,” the petition further states. “Failing to account for inflation, contractual raises and reducing the amount or quality of services are also budget cuts. Please hold a special joint session with the Board of Education about their budget.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com