SOUTHINGTON — In a host of votes Monday night, some along party-lines, the council trimmed a recommended budget and passed a final spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Councilors passed the budget, eliminating a stipend for a deputy town manager, and reduced the suggested raise for Town Manager Mark Sciota’s executive assistant.
The council unanimously passed a 2019-20 fiscal year budget of $54 million for the town. It passed a budget of $98.8 million for the Board of Education in a 7 to 2 vote.
Sciota argued for the deputy town manager stipend, which would be given to a department head as compensation for additional work. He said the deputy is needed to help with the day-to-day management of the town now that the town attorney is an hourly, contracted position. Sciota was deputy town manager and town attorney before he was hired for the top spot.
Republicans said Sciota could use the support and a designated replacement if he’s incapacitated or on vacation. Democrats said it wasn’t necessary and could lead to further spending.
Council vice chairwoman Dawn Miceli, a Democrat, said she opposed filling the deputy town manager role when she voted to hire Sciota.
“You’re headed down a road with regard to another employee for the Town of Southington,” she said. “We’ll see in a couple of years.”
The five Democrats prevailed over the four Republicans on the council to eliminate the stipend from the budget.
Two of the five Democrats voted in favor of a motion to reduce the Board of Finance request for two new firefighters to one. Three Democrats, council chairman Chris Palmieri, Kelly Morrissey and Chris Poulos, voted with Republicans to maintain funding for two new hires. Many firefighters attended Monday’s meeting and cheered the vote.
Seven councilors of both parties supported the $98.8 million education budget and two Democrats opposed it. Councilors said they were disappointed that the school district hadn’t worked harder to reduce expenses with Republican councilor William Dziedzic calling it the most frustrating vote of the night.
Morrissey, who voted in favor of the school budget, said it would be refreshing to hear about school district efforts to reduce positions or spending.
“I can only urge the district and Board of Education to get creative, to look at things from another angle,” she said. “Show the town you’re being resourceful, then you’ll be rewarded,”
With the spending plan passed Monday, the mill rate would increase .16 to 30.64. Each mill represents the number of tax dollars levied on every $1,000 of assessed property value.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Palmieri’s vote on the hiring of two new firefighters.