Shelton official: Budget workshop schedule a 'disservice' to taxpayers

Mayor Mark A. Lauretti presented his budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 to the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation at Shelton City Hall in Shelton, Conn., on Thursday April 1, 2021.

Mayor Mark A. Lauretti presented his budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 to the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation at Shelton City Hall in Shelton, Conn., on Thursday April 1, 2021.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Allowing the Board of Apportionment and Taxation only two workshops is not enough time for a full analysis of Mayor Mark Lauretti’s proposed budget, one A&T member says.

A&T will holds its first budget workshop Thursday when the Board of Education will present its budget. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium and can be viewed live on the city’s website.

The board will hold its second budget workshop focused on the city departments at 6 p.m. April 27 with a final vote scheduled for April 29 on the budget to be sent to the Board of Aldermen for approval. Attendance in the auditorium will be limited to 50 people.

“This does a disservice to the voters and taxpayers in Shelton, who voted down the charter revision proposal last year in overwhelming numbers, because they saw the value in checks and balances in the budget process,” said A&T member Michelle Laubin, a Democrat.

“I do not think that one night for hearing from all the city departments is going to be adequate,” Laubin added, “and no time has been scheduled with the Board of A&T for analyzing the information obtained from the budget hearings and considering changes to the budget proposed by the mayor.”

Lauretti questioned the need for such workshops, considering his proposed budget is a mere $43,728 more than the present fiscal year’s number. He also pointed out that A&T Chairman Jay Francino-Quinn set the A&T schedule.

Francino-Quinn, a Republican, could not be reached for comment.

Last year, A&T Democrats, on a conference call for the meeting in May to vote on the budget, hung up their phones, leaving the budget workshop and preventing Republican members from voting on the mayor’s budget plan.

With the three Democrats no longer at the remote meeting, there was no quorum and the vote could not be taken. Lauretti took a five-minute recess after the Democrats left the meeting, and when he returned, he adjourned the meeting. A&T never met again, and the mayor’s budget was forwarded to the aldermen unchanged.

A&T’s workshops are focusing on Lauretti’s proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget, which stands at $128,225,767, a $43,728 increase from the present 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.

“I would ask that the mayor and the Board of Aldermen advocate for a fair and thorough review of the proposed budget,” Laubin said, “not just rushing this through because the mayor doesn’t want anyone taking a hard look at his budget.”

Laubin said A&T’s presence can only be helpful “if we are given adequate time and resources to do the job that the charter demands.”

“The idea that we are going to be prepared to vote on the budget only two days after holding one night of hearings, with no time scheduled for debate and revision, means that the mayor is not anticipating that there will be any debate or any revision, and has already predetermined the outcome of the budget process,” Laubin added.

A&T board members are asked to submit budget questions or requests for a specific department or agency to attend the April 27 meeting in advance.

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.

Eliminating A&T was part of the proposed charter revision, which was resoundingly defeated last November.

A&T, under the charter, is required to hold at least one joint hearing with the Board of Aldermen and also hold hearings with department heads if deemed appropriate. A&T is charged with approving the budget as submitted or present a budget with its proposed changes — approved by a majority vote — to the aldermen no later than May 1.

A&T has six members, three Democrat, three Republican. Lauretti is the deciding vote in case of a tie.