BERLIN – Several cuts and reductions to the Acting Town Manager’s proposed $93.9 million budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year were discussed during a Board of Finance meeting Tuesday night.
“There’s going to be hurt no matter what,” said John Richards, member of the finance board. “Everyone has to take a hit.”
The new finance board, created by charter change last year, will adjust the budget including the school board amount which is proposed as a 4.3 percent increase. The Town Council will then accept, reject, or reduce the finance board budget.
Voters will vote on the town and school budgets separately in the referendum. Another referendum could follow depending on the results of the first one.
Members of the finance board discussed potential increases ranging from a little less than $1 million to $1.5 million for the school board which has requested a $1.8 million increase from last year.
Brian Benigni, Superintendent of Berlin Schools said during a recent budget presentation that the school budget has seen a five-year average increase of 1.94 percent which has impacted budgets moving forward.
“If we were able to receive an additional half a percent over the last five years we wouldn’t be sitting at a 4.3 (percent), we’d be sitting around a 2.3 (percent),” he said.
The district is looking at filling two currently unfilled positions by the summer. The assistant superintendent and high school principal positions are both being reviewed with interviews expected soon.
“There are some priorities,” said Sam Lomaglio, chairman of the finance board.
Members of the board agreed that public safety components including new trucks and police cruisers are among the most significant requests for next year.
Jim Simons, Berlin fire administrator and former fire chief, said patrol cars needed to be replaced as well as dump trucks. A lease-to-purchase option was discussed for three truck replacements.
“We’re playing catch-up from the last few years,” said Sal Bordonaro, member of the finance board.
Last year minimal capital funding was put in place. The council requested more than 7 percent decreases from each department with most including capital items.
This year’s proposal includes over $4 million in capital projects along with a 10-year plan of projects to fund in the future.
“This budget was developed with the intent to fund critically strategic goals,” said Acting Town Manager Jack Healy.
The finance board has already reduced small items by going through the budget line by line. The Charter Revision funds, used for a future charter change process, were eliminated and $5,000 was reduced for an educational course on the town side.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz spoke at the meeting as the high school football coach about future improvements to Scalise Field.
“I appreciate what you’re doing,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can do if we work together.”
Finance Director Kevin Delaney said a lot of replacement requests are due to a number of deferred projects over the years.
Budget discussions will continue until the finance board votes to send the budgets forward.