SOUTHINGTON – Town Council Republicans passed general government and capital improvement budgets over the objections of Democrats Monday.
Although the education budget passed unanimously, the two parties were deadlocked until after 10:30 p.m. on general government and capital spending.
While Republicans hold six seats on the nine-member council, two Republicans including Chairman Michael Riccio were not present. Five votes are required to pass a budget. Riccio arrived at 10:20 p.m. to give the Republicans the votes they needed. The government and capital budgets passed in a 5 to 3 vote.
Democratic minority leader Chris Palmieri brought up a list of items which he suggested be deferred to lessen the town spending in the upcoming fiscal year. That included not hiring a human resource specialist for $99,000 and pushing off some vehicle replacements which total $476,000.
“We’re not looking to micromanage, we’re looking to compromise,” Palmieri said.
Democratic councilor John Barry called the Republican’s budget a “spending spree.”
Council chairwoman Cheryl Lounsbury, a Republican, defended the spending which she said had been deferred for years.
“We did let things slide,” she said.
Lounsbury said IT spending items on the capital budget were important for the town to stay current. Palmieri had suggested some of those items be put off.
Town Manager Garry Brumback recommended spending $4.27 million on capital projects that have been postponed in previous years, including new trucks, culverts and park improvements. Paying for these projects in part from reserves reduces the amount that needs to be borrowed.
Despite the proposed spending, Lounsbury said the reserve fund would still have more than the minimum set by the Board of Finance.
The $87,072,005 education budget passed unanimously, a 3.4 percent increase.
Palmieri said he supported it without any expectation that the Board of Education should request no more than 2 percent next year.
In March, the finance board recommended a school budget increase of 3.4 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, fully funding the education board’s request. Finance board chairman John Leary said that funding was given on the understanding that the school district will be held to a 2 percent increase for the following year.
Under the town government spending proposal, the town’s mill rate would increase by nearly one mill.
Each mill is one dollar of taxes on each $1, 000 of assessed property value.
The median home value in town is about $250, 000, according to the Finance Department.
The proposed tax increase would mean $158 per year more in taxes for homes at that value.
Funding requests from department heads weren’t cut in the budget passed Monday. Republican councilor Victoria Triano contrasted this new way of creating town budgets with previous methods that encouraged department heads to inflate their requests, knowing their requests would be cut.
“We had created a budget system where department heads out of fear would pad their budgets,” she said. “It was a phony budget.”
The new method is more honest, according to Triano.