Lauretti makes 2018-19 budget recommendation with no tax increase

Mayor Mark Lauretti proposed a total city budget of $124,092,880 for 2018-19 and a mill rate of 22.15, and for the 10th year in a row residents will not see an increase in property tax.

Watch him make the announcement above.

The mayor said his 27th budget process is another difficult one because the governor is not sticking to what he promised Connecticut residents three years ago.

“Gov. Malloy said he would not sign a budget balanced on the backs of education or municipalities. Well, that’s exactly what he’s proposing this year,” said Lauretti. “Malloy’s proposal represents serious financial disruptions for many Connecticut municipalities.”

Lauretti said it is unclear when the state budget will be set at this point or whether teacher pension payments will now be the responsibility of municipalities.

“These unknown factors cause major issues when setting local budgets because of their impacts on municipalities, who have limited revenue-raising sources, and mandated deadlines to set mill rates and budgets,” said Lauretti

Lauretti said the governor has placed the state in a situation that cannot be resolved in the short term.

“Simply passing on these operational costs, without making structural changes to the way Connecticut funds services for its residents, is not only wrong but is a premeditation to deception,” said Lauretti. “This tactic, if left in place, will accelerate the state’s downward spiral.”

The city’s second year in a row of lowering the mill rate exemplifies the different path or direction in which Lauretti said he’s leading the town.

Despite his own work in Shelton, Lauretti said, the governor has made the state less competitive and placed drastic municipal burdens. Lauretti said younger people leaving the state for jobs and the cost of living are not the only issues the state is currently facing.

“We have held the line on our taxes, and that has been the catalyst for the resurgence of our downtown development and the explosion of our corporate base,” said Lauretti. “I and other bipartisan municipal leaders have warned the governor and legislature for years about unfunded state mandates, spending beyond their means, decreasing municipal ECS (Education Cost Sharing) aid, depressed economic conditions resulting in loss of jobs and underemployment, excessive state bonding, restrictive state business regulations, not reimbursing districts for special education costs, colossal state debt and taxes.”

The city’s budget won’t be finalized until the Board of Aldermen gets its chance to review it in May, and Lauretti admitted that the numbers in his recommendation could very well change.

Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden said the board is unhappy with the amount designated in the mayor’s proposal. He said the mayor’s proposal leaves the board approximately three-quarters of a million dollars short of what it had requested.

“We also need to replace hundreds of computers that the teachers use. A lot of these computers are now eight to 11 years old,” said Holden. “The problem is that every time the teachers want to advance to the next screen while they’re giving a lesson, there can be a minute or two delay. That can add up to two or three hours per week. Over the course of the year, that can add up to two to three weeks’ loss in productivity. All for a $600 machine. So that’s something we want to replace. It’s not going to happen with the allocation as it stands.

“It’s possible the city may decide to take that expense on their side of the budget and that would be a help. But at the moment we’re approximately three quarters of a million dollars short of what we need to maintain the level of service that we’ve been giving.”

Lauretti said that although there is a possibility of having to cut services, it’s premature to begin to think of where the city would look to make cuts should the state budget require it to do so.

“The legislature is keenly aware of what happened last year and no one wants to duplicate that process, so I think we will see an accelerated cooperation this go-round,” said Lauretti.

Superintendent of Shelton Schools Dr. Chris Clouet said the possibility of having to reduce the school district’s staff size is a possibility but the district is still weighing all its options.