Cheshire budget proposal reflects cuts in state aid but not teacher pensions

Cheshire budget proposal reflects cuts in state aid but not teacher pensions

Record-Journal


CHESHIRE — Town Manager Michael Milone’s proposed $110 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year takes into account substantial state aid cuts, but does not include a contribution to the state’s teachers’ retirement fund.

The spending plan proposed Monday is an increase of 2.4 percent over the current fiscal year. Milone planned for a host of expected cuts in state funding for Cheshire proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, such as the loss of more than $1 million in education aid, $771,000 in general government aid and $167,000 due to a state cap on car tax rates. But he isn’t counting on Cheshire having to pay $3.5 million towards the state’s teachers’ retirement fund.

“If we had to cut $3.5 million today, it would completely decimate services,” Milone said.

If the General Assembly approves the pension contribution requirement proposed by Malloy, the town might have to issue a supplemental tax bill, Milone said.

Paul Bowman, the Town Council’s vice chairman, said he’s worked on 10 previous town budgets and that this year is the hardest he can remember. The town charter requires the council to finalize a budget before the state’s spending plan is approved by the General Assembly.

“There’s so many things up in the air. It’s very difficult to come up with a budget locally when we don’t have a sense of what’s going on at the state level,” Bowman said. “It’s a very troubling process.”

Bowman said he hopes residents contact the council and attend workshops to air their views on the budget.

Milone’s plan includes only one new position — an electronic media coordinator. The town plans to upgrade its website later this year and Milone said keeping the website updated with accurate information, along with other media duties, is a full-time job.

Town Hall employees have gotten complaints about outdated information on the website.

“It raises questions about the accuracy and credibility of everything else that’s on there,” he said.

For the average taxpayer, the proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 will mean an tax increase of nearly $350. That’s higher than previous annual increases, which have ranged from $55 to $155.

Milone said he feels this year’s increase was the result of state leaders shifting financial problems to towns and cities.

“They are circumstances completely out of our control,” he said. “It’s not for lack of planning or for lack of frugality.”

To lessen the tax increase, Milone proposes freezing some positions, consolidating others and moving parks workers to the public works department.

General government spending rose by $718,140 or 2.37 percent over the current year, under the proposal. Education spending increased $1.4 million or slightly over 2 percent. Debt service rose $437,589 or 6.41 percent.

jbuchanan@recordjournal.com 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ




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