City budget process is day-to-day

‘When the state doesn’t have a plan, how can we have a plan?’

With two meetings scheduled to take place before the Board of Aldermen accept a budget and tax rate on May 25, board President John Anglace said it hasn’t reached a decision yet because of the uncertainty at the state level.  

“How could anyone have a plan? When the state doesn’t have a plan, how can we have a plan?” said Anglace. “When you’re forced to make a decision, you make the best one you can make at the moment.”

Before the meeting, both Alderman Anthony Simonetti and Anglace said they were hoping to hear more input from the public because of the possibility that people could have useful insight to put toward finalizing a budget.

One of only two residents to attend the public hearing, Judson Crawford said he respected the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation’s efforts put toward creating a city budget. Crawford said he also appreciated both boards’ supporting the Board of Education.

“The board has a very, very difficult decision to make,” said Crawford. “When the state figures are changing daily and even when you make a recommendation, it could be completely wrong 24 hours later.”

Alderman Jack Finn said he’s hopeful the small public turnout was because the residents trust the “city fathers” to create a budget that best serves the city. He also said he would like to see the city fully fund the Board of Education.

Funding the city’s Board of Ed

Anglace said the mayor didn’t address the issue of how much money to give the Board of Education in his recommendation because of the ongoing deliberations at the state level.

“The uncertainties at the state level that were in existence at the time the mayor made his recommendation are worse now than they were then. The state is now talking not about taking $3.8 million from us in Education Cost Sharing, they’re talking about taking the whole $5.8 million away. … They’re just out of their minds up there. We’re going to have to set a budget come the 25th because we have to get tax bills out.”

Mayor Mark Lauretti recommended that the Board of Education operate on the same $70,470,000 budget that was approved last year. The Board of Ed submitted a request for $1.98 million more than what the mayor proposed. The Board of A&T supported an increase of $519,574, which still leaves the BOE short nearly $1.5 million of its request.

Crawford said he hopes the city will be able to fund the BOE’s budget request.

Anglace said the BOE has been very reasonable and the aldermen have appreciated that as they working to finalize the budget.

Getting creative to fill gaps caused by cuts

Alderman Finn said if the city gets its state funding cut, it would have to come up with new ways to balance its budget. He thinks one of the only options is to dig into the city’s surplus, or “rainy day fund.”

“It’s the only idea that comes to me off the top of my head,” said Finn. “You can make a lot of cuts within the city. … Human Resources in Shelton, they’ve returned well over $89,000 last year, and I questioned utilities this year because they returned what I will say is near $300,000 and their answer to me was, ‘Don’t you like a surplus?’ So I said, ‘No, I like to know where we can cut because we’re not spending the money, and if we’re not spending the money, then why are we funding it?’”

Anglace agreed that the city could make more cuts to its departments’ budget requests, but said the city won’t be going into its surplus to fund the gap caused by any state budget cuts.

“You can’t build a recurring budget based on surplus, because you can’t fund it next year,” said Anglace. “I’m like everyone else and am looking at what’s going on day to day”

The Board of Aldermen has asked why people aren’t visiting Hartford to protest, since Shelton is only one of 169 communities in the same predicament.

“I don’t think that’s fair, that since we’re able to save money that we should be forced to use it when the state decides to cut our funding,” said 4rth Ward Alderman Jim Capra. “It’ll only make them think that it’s OK to do every year.”

Public feedback

The other resident to attend the public hearing, Ron Pavluvcik, said he feels the city and specifically Board of Education put forward a reasonable budget, considering all the possibilities of cuts at the state level. Pavluvcik did say that, if possible, he would like to see money allocated for repairs to the Plumb Memorial Library.

“I’d like to see something efficient done with the appearance of the main Plumb Library. Maybe it could be evaluated for the following fiscal year,” said Pavluvcik. “I love the architecture, and the people are great, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth. … The rugs are really in bad shape and there are some missing ceiling tiles.”

Pavluvcik said he thinks the appearance of the Plumb Memorial Library could deter some people from moving to Shelton.