SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders passed a budget with minimal spending increases along partisan lines Monday with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats objecting to it.
Board of Education spending will rise by nearly $300,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year to $100.6 million.
The town’s Board of Finance had voted in favor of a general government spending increase from $53.5 million to $54.7 million, not counting money used from the town's reserves. On Monday, the council voted to reduce the increase by $250,000.
Republicans said the spending plan was designed to keep taxes low during a year with a lot of economic uncertainty as well as a property revaluation.
“This is really the second year of the pandemic. People are just returning to work,” said Victoria Triano, council chairwoman and a Republican. “There are landlords who haven’t been able to collect rent for months and months. People are dying to get back into the workforce and can’t.”
Republican councilor Bill Dziedzic said the town is coming out of what is probably a once in a century event.
“It’s part of not raising taxes on businesses and the taxpayers of the town of Southington,” he said of the budget.”
Republicans have six of the nine council seats.
Democrats said they were concerned about smaller than usual increase to town and education services.
The Board of Finance voted to reduce the growth in education spending by $400,000. The council cut it another $1.5 million on Monday.
Chris Palmieri, a Democrat and council minority leader, said he was concerned with the changes made by the finance board and council. He’s a vice principal at DePaolo Middle School.
Chris Poulos, a Democratic councilor and a teacher in Redding, said Republicans were creating a “fiscal cliff” with needed funding postponed to future years.
“I think it’s reckless,” Poulos said of Monday’s budget. “It’s ultimately going to hurt families because it’s going to hurt the quality of education.”
James Morelli, a Republican councilor, said the school system was still getting nearly $300,00 more than last year.
“This additional money is growth money,” he said. “It’s not fair to the people of Southington keep pouring money into the Board of Education.”
Val DePaolo, a Democratic councilor, said she understood the goal of keeping taxes low but said insufficient spending might hurt families and other residents.
Republicans pointed to the more than $4 million in federal pandemic funding received by the school district.
The town also received a similar sum. The funding can’t be used for operational expenses.