MERIDEN — The proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year includes a spending increase, large-scale city projects, and a major organizational change.
1. The numbers
Acting City Manager Ken Morgan’s proposed $197.4-million budget is a roughly 2-percent increase over the current fiscal year. The budget cut over $9 million from the $206.7 million requested by department heads.
2. Tax impact
The proposed spending plan would necessitate a tax rate of 42.76 mills, with an inner city tax rate of 44.94, according to Finance Director Michael Lupkas. One mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.
Factored into the mill rate calculation is the .92-percent decrease in the city’s Grand List, which shrunk by $28.4 million. The reduction was driven by 42 appeals of the latest revaluation, which decreased taxable property value in the city by about $25 million.
3. Board of Education
The Board of Education is flat-funded at $99.8 million. The board initially $104.5 million, a nearly 5-percent increase. Superintendent Mark Benigni, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, had previously said the budget submitted was what it would cost ot maintain services and staff at current levels. Last week, the board voted to cut 26 positions, including 14 teaching positions, in reducing its request by $1.4 million.
4. Capital Improvement Projects & Capital Equipment
The city’s proposed $3.67-million for Capital Improvement projects includes several major projects for the city’s dispatch center, police department, library and airport.
Projects include $150,000 toward the $3.25-million cost of relocating city’s Emergency Communication Center — the city hopes for $1.5 million in grants—; $50,000 for achitecture for a library renovation/expansion project; $250,000 for cellblock upgrades for the police station; and $375,000 for a quonset hut at the Meriden Markham Municipal Airport.
The Board of Education is requesting $1.8 million to replace the roof on Hanover Elementary School, of which $1.1 million is being funded through a grant.
The $757,600 allotted for capital equipment includes $267,800 for the police departmetn for cruisers abnd bullet proof vests and $220,000 for IT improvements.
5. Facilities Technology department eliminated
The budget eliminates the Facilities and Technology Management department created last year by City Manager Guy Scaife. The move effectively reverses Scaife's changes by returning oversight of city facilities to the Parks Department and creating a separate information technology department. The change eliminates the $120,000 director of facilities and technology management position, previously held by Russ Ford, who resigned in February, producing a cost savings. A new systems administrator position has been created to oversee information technology.
6. Legal department gets a boost
The city’s Legal Department recieved a 23.7-percent increase to its budget, which includes the restoration fo a clerk position cut last year. A major part of the spike is a 37-percent increase in fees paid to outside law firms for legal services, which was increased from $365,000 in this year’s budget to a proposed $500,000.
7. Contingency for state funding
The budget includes a separate $1-million contingency fund to account for fluctuations in state funding in addition to the normal $500,000 contingency fund. State funding has already been reduced by $630,000, and the additional contingency is meant to cover any further cuts. If there is no significant change in state funds, that money can go back into the budget for other purposes.
“Hopefully as we go along in the budget process, we’ll have better numbers from the state, and if we get finalized numbers we can take that out,” Lupkas said.
8. Debt and reserve funds
As of now, the city’s total debt service is approximately $145 million and is expected to drop to $135 million by the end of next year.
The city’s reserve funds rest at $16.8 million, however it may decrease if the City Council chooses to use those funds to offset the current year’s $1.8-million deficit.