SOUTHINGTON — Town Manager Mark Sciota’s proposed budget for the upcoming year includes more police officers, the purchase of a building on North Main Street and capital projects.
General government and school district spending total $160.1 million, $7 million more than the current year. The town’s Board of Finance and Town Council can adjust the proposal before adopting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Here’s what you need to know about how Sciota’s proposal will affect residents.
1. Are taxes going up?
Property tax rates will rise 1.5 percent under Sciota’s spending plan. For a home appraised at $250,000, the median price in Southington, the budget will increase taxes by $79 per year.
The town levies taxes using the mill rate, which is the number of dollars in tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value. The current mill rate is 30.64 and would rise to 31.09.
2. What’s driving the increase?
Both the general government and education budgets increase under the proposal.
The Board of Education voted to request a $101.6 million budget, an increase of $2.8 million, or 2.84 percent. School officials cited rising salary, special education and contracted services costs. Sciota included the school district spending request in his overall budget. It can only be adjusted by the Board of Finance and Town Council.
General government spending is proposed to increase for similar reasons, Sciota said. With normal increases in the cost of doing business along with more than $200,000 for two new police officers, general government spending would increase by 2.76 percent.
Total spending is rising by more than 8 percent, the bulk of which are major purchases funded by the town’s cash reserves.
In November, voters approved the purchase of the John Weichsel Municipal Center on North Main Street, a former school the town was leasing. Town officials wanted to buy the building for $2.9 million and avoid continued leasing costs. The town had sold the former North Center School for $1 in exchange for renovations and a lease with the option to buy.
Sciota’s budget includes $2.9 million from cash reserves to buy the building. It also includes capital projects such as road improvements, roof work and equipment.
3. What new town positions are in the budget?
Sciota included $10,000 for an assistant town manager, a stipend which would be paid to an existing town employee for additional duties. He said an assistant town manager could help town operations, particularly when he’s away, but the council removed the item in his previous budget request.
Democrats, who held a majority on the council last year, opposed the stipend, while Republicans supported it. Republicans took a majority on the council in November’s elections.
Sciota said meeting with police officials and comparing the size of Southington’s Police Department with similar towns convinced him of the need for more officers. The two police officers are the only new positions in the budget.
“We all agreed that certainly they needed more staffing,” Sciota said.
James Verderame, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said the town has 68 officers.
“We’re well below average for a town our size,” he said. “We absolutely could use them.”
Verderame expects the cost would be offset by reductions in overtime. The cost of new officers for a year includes nearly $140,000 for wages, $3,200 for clothing allowance and $33,000 for health insurance.
4. What happens next?
The Board of Finance will hold workshops and meet with departments heads on budget requests. John Leary, board chairman, said he was pleased at the overall spending totals.
“It looks like the budget that’s coming through is very reasonable at its first pass,” he said. “We’ll have to dig in, we’ll have to look at it.”
Residents will have their first chance to voice an opinion on the budget at a public hearing scheduled for March 2 at DePaolo Middle School.
After a recommendation from the finance board, the budget goes to the Town Council for adoption.