BERLIN — The Town Council is waiting until its meeting Monday to vote on the Board of Finance’s budget proposals as councilors weigh an offer to avoid further cuts in exchange for a mill rate reduction based on additional state aid.
“It would satisfy the school needs and some of the needs of the town,” finance board Chairman Sam Lomaglio said of the offer. “I think it’s a win-win for the town.”
Under the deal, the finance board agreed to include $300,000 of $650,000 in unanticipated state aid in the education budget, lowering the mill rate increase in the proposal. In exchange, the council would agree not to cut from the proposal the finance board approved this past Monday.
The finance board approved proposed budgets of $44.6 million for general government, the same amount residents rejected at a May 22 referendum, and $43.9 million for the Board of Education, an increase of $250,000 from the rejected spending plan. The budget proposal would necessitate a 1.11 mill rate increase to 32.72. The town also recently completed a revaluation, so the tax impact on each homeowner will depend on individual assessments.
The council will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Mayor Mark Kaczynski was skeptical of the offer, saying that the board had previously reneged on an informal agreement after a joint session May 31 where he felt members of both bodies appeared to agree on using some of the additional funding. He also said he’s “tried to cooperate,” but feels the finance board went against the consensus reached a week ago.
“You can’t run a town this way,” he said. Kaczynski also said raising spending beyond the rejected budget “completely disregarded voters.”
Lomaglio and other finance board members previously expressed concern about using the additional funding because the state could cut that figure mid year, but they said they feel confident using some of the aid after receiving a letter from House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.
Republican town councilors could cut the finance budget’s proposal and adopt that as the final budget — the Town Charter dictates that the council set the budget if a second referendum is unsuccesful — or accept the finance board’s offer.
Finance Director Kevin Delaney, meanwhile, cautioned that the longer the town goes without a budget, the greater the chance is that there will not be a spending plan in place when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
If there isn’t a budget in place by mid-June, Delaney said the Town Council would have to approve a 90-day budget utitlizing the town’s reserve fund to cover essential expenses. The town could also use short-term lending to cover town expenses, adding to an already high debt load.
Regardless of the decision the council makes Monday, Kaczynski said there will be a budget in place by the end of the day. Should the council reject the finance board proposal, a joint session with the finance board will be held that night to either consider Lomaglio’s offer or work out other concerns the council has.
“We will have a budget Monday night,” Kaczynski said.