MERIDEN — A spending plan that would keep the tax rate flat next year is heading to the City Council for approval after the public got a chance to provide input at a hearing Monday night.
Eight residents participated in the virtual public hearing, which lasted about 20 minutes. Six emailed comments to be read aloud and two submitted live comments via a question and answer feature.
The council’s Finance Committee unanimously approved a $198.7 million budget last month, which includes a number of adjustments recently made by the city manager and finance director to ease the tax burden on residents in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The council is expected to adopt a new city budget during a meeting next Monday.
Some residents objected to the $649,000 increase given to the Board of Education. In an email, Tom Pannone said the school district has reported lower savings from school closures than other districts, like Wallingford. City officials told councilors last month that school officials reported saving roughly $400,000 from closures — $300,000 in transportation costs and $100,000 in athletics costs.
Pannone called for an audit of the education budget.
Resident Tristan Shields also spoke against the education increase, arguing it will be built into all future budgets due to a state law that generally prohibits municipalities from budgeting less for education than the year prior. Some city officials have pointed out the $649,000 increase will be partially offset next year because the board has committed to returning its $400,000 in savings to the city, which the city will then use on next year’s budget, effectively lowering the tax burden.
Resident Dave Rauch said he’d like to see the city budget provide more details on the municipal golf course and airport. More information would give taxpayers a clearer picture of whether those amenities are self-sustaining, he said.
Holly Wills, president of the Meriden Council of Neighborhoods, thanked the council for funding the Police Department’s community policing unit, which she called “instrumental to fighting crime.”
The council has a policy of not responding to comments made during its annual public hearing held on the budget.