Shelton mayor's proposed budget cuts taxes, gives more to schools

SHELTON — Residents can expect a tax decrease if Mayor Mark Lauretti’s 2021-22 budget is approved as proposed.

Lauretti, in his annual address to the Board of Aldermen and Board of Apportionment and Taxation Thursday in the City Hall auditorium, said he is proposing a $128,225,767 city budget, a $43,728 increase from the present fiscal year.

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

Lauretti’s budget included a modest increase for the Board of Education budget, which has been $72,765,000 for the past two years. Lauretti's education proposal stands at $72,900,000 — a $135,000 increase over the 2020-21 fiscal year budget but more than $2 million less than the school board requested.

This year, the Board of Education has approved a 2021-22 budget request of $74,944,205 — a $2,179,205, or 2.99 percent — hike from the previous year.

“Last year, the theme was uncertainty,” Lauretti said, “and, for the most part, we’re in the same situation this year.

“Next year’s budget will look like this year’s budget,” he said, with the only jumps because of contractual increases.

Lauretti said the city’s budget depends on the economy rebounding and clarification on the use of federal stimulus monies coming to municipalities and the boards of education across the state — all of which remain unknown. Money coming to municipalities cannot be used to buy down the tax rate, but what it can be used for has not been finalized.

The mayor was speaking about funds coming to Shelton from

The recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes $16.8 million earmarked for Shelton, with $4,898,000 designated for education, according to data released from Congressman Jim Himes’ office.

The breakdown aims $4,060,000 in federal relief funds to the city as well as an additional $7.86 million, due in part because Connecticut has no county government and part of the state funding was allocated money for county governments to bestow.

Regarding the education budget, Lauretti said “at some point before the final adoption, the Board of Aldermen can and will modify that number once there is clarification on those federal stimulus monies that have been made available.”

Lauretti acknowledged that there are “new and important” educational programs — such as Eureka math, Wit and Wisdom for reading as well as social/emotional learning offerings — necessary to aid learning in the wake of the pandemic. He also noted a new social studies curriculum, mandated by the state, which comes at a cost.

"This is just the beginning of a process in which many conversations and discussions will take place,” Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish said after the budget presentation. “Our Board of Education members will work with our superintendent and his central office leadership team to review each line-item request in preparation for joint meetings with the Board of Apportionment and Taxation and the Board of Aldermen. We will present our information and justify our needs. ... (and) we will be afforded a final budget that will be beneficial to our taxpayers but most importantly to our students.

“Due to the effects of COVID-19, we have a long road ahead of us to get our kids caught up in their academics, their social/emotional learning and their overall growth and development,” Yolish added. “With the proper funding, this can be accomplished.”

School Superintendent Ken Saranich said his budget proposal would maintain current staff and services while meeting necessary contractual obligations. The reductions, he said, will not impact on the district’s offerings but will reduce capital requests that would have gone to the city.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com