City passes budget with tax decrease

Unknowns at state level could lead to adjustments, more cuts

Shelton’s Board of Aldermen unanimously accepted a budget and lowered tax rate that could potentially change if proposed cuts are made at the state level.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace said the city is prepared to operate under its accepted $123,308,705 budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year despite uncertainties in Hartford.  

The city’s mill rate decreased from 22.31 to 22.21 mills. Overall, the budget has decreased by $22,326 from the mayor’s initial proposal.

Anglace said in his 26 years on the Board of Aldermen the city hasn’t seen this type a budget season.

“The irony of this whole process is the state is not concentrating on fixing the problem, and the problem is the $6 billion state deficit,” said Anglace. “What they are doing through this budget process is simply taking from Peter to pay Paul. They’re taking from us and giving to some of the larger towns. Taking from what they consider to be the affluent towns using their antiquated distribution formula that hasn’t been adjusted in years and years. Education funding in this state needs a complete overhaul.

Anglace continued.

“They think the state has a revenue problem, but the state has a spending problem. It spends more than it’s bringing in,” said Anglace. “How many people want to be governor? If you go out and raise $250,000 we’re, the state, are going to give you $6 million. Where are they going to get $6 million? If I were Lauretti the first thing I would do when I get in is cut that out and change that law. We can’t afford to give that to every candidate with all of the problems we’ve got. It’s unconscionable.”

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city is awaiting to see the effects of any cuts at the state level.

The mayor wouldn’t comment on whether or not the city would go into its rainy day fund or surplus to fund any gap caused by state cuts but said that “it wouldn’t solve the problem.”

“It would only solve the problem for now,” said Lauretti.

Anglace said the city wouldn’t fund any gap caused by state cuts with its surplus and the city cannot assume any specific outcome.

“We can’t speculate on what we would do if we get less money because if you know what they’re going to do in Hartford if we do that? They’re going to give us less money,” said Anglace.

Changes to accepted budget

In this most recent version of the city’s budget, an additional $10,000 was added to the public safety budget to pay its part-time employees; an additional $4,433 was added to the fire marshal’s budget to fund gasoline; an additional $73,576 was added to the building department’s budget to fund their regular payroll; an additional $30,000 was added to the highways and bridges budget to fund communications maintenance and repairs; an additional $1,249 was added to the department of public works’ budget; $55,000 was added to the sanitation department budget to pay its full-time employees; $10,000 was added to the library budget to fund its regular payroll; $5,000 was added to the community development’s budget to pay for its part-time employees, and $2,000 was added to the outside agencies’ budget to help fund local organization Celebrate Shelton.

“We’ve got needs in this town, needs to fulfill and services to provide. The only source we have is to take the money from the people through property taxes and we try to minimize that,” said Anglace. “Whether that’s buying school buses so we don’t spend an extra million dollars giving it away to some third party, we save money that way and other ways, special lights to save electricity and where else we can save money.”

The budget’s most significant change was the $480,426 increase to the city’s board of education. The increase still puts the board $1 million short of its initial request, but $1 million more than the mayor’s previous recommendation for the department.

The budget approved by the aldermen last week gives $71,470,000 to the city’s schools for next year.

Anglace credits the city’s board of ed for their role in developing a budget during such a tough year for the state.

Our education people I give them credit. We worked with them closely and they said they knew what we were up against and they tried their best to make things work for us,” said Anglace.

Anglace explained that the board of aldermen would be responsible for making any future cuts to the budget, should changes need to occur following the announcement of the state’s final budget.

He clarified that should cuts at the state level force the city to readjust its budget, there would be no time constraints.

“If they say to us ‘you’ve gotta pay us $3.8 million for teacher’s pensions,’ do you know what we’re going to do? I don’t speak for all of the aldermen, but my opinion is we’re going to say, ‘We’re not paying it,’” said Anglace. “They can take us to court. They can do what they want to do, we’ll fight them. State of Connecticut Constitution says grades k-12 education should be provided to every student by what I think is free of charge. They’re the ones responsible for providing free education, not us.”

Anglace estimated that the city funds 93% of the education budget, the state paying the remaining 7%. He said he’d prefer the city pay its entire education budget and be permitted to run the department how it sees fit.

“The governor’s proposal would make our share 98% and state’s share only 2%; how does that make sense?” said Anglace. “Us, collectively, 169 towns and municipalities should ban together to create a class-action suit and say ‘look, this is your responsibility, not ours. Just relieve us of all of your stupid mandates and stop telling us how to do the job and we’ll do it a lot cheaper. Get out of our way.’”

Refinancing could save the city $1 million

Lauretti said after the aldermen meeting that the refinancing opportunity presented itself since he initially put a budget together in January, but that the savings aren’t definite.

The mayor explained that the city assumes it will be able to save $1 million by refinancing debt that derives from a 2011 bond issue.

“We do it from time to time; we don’t do it all the time. We do it because the opportunity presented itself,” said Lauretti.