WALLINGFORD — The Town Council approved several changes to the mayor’s proposed budget this week, moving closer to the goal of eliminating a tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year.
The vote was 7-2 with Chairman Vincent Cervoni and Vice Chairman Tom Laffin voting no.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. proposed a tax rate increase of 1.06 percent in his budget released April 1. The current rate of 29.19 mills would move to 29.5, or roughly one-third of a mill.
The council would have to reduce the budget by $1.28 million to avoid a mill rate increase next year.
While the idea has bipartisan support among councilors, getting there took some effort.
Councilor Christina Tatta asked nearly every department head during the rounds of budget workshops in April and May if they could further reduce their budgets by 1 percent, hoping that would reduce the budget enough to get to a zero percent tax increase.
Most, however, said it would create a hardship for their departments since Dickinson had reduced their budget requests already.
Councilor Chris Shortell presented on Tuesday a two-pronged amendment created by the Republicans on the council.
The amendment further cuts spending and utilizes money from the town Electric Division’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT), which would be offset by reserves in the Capital and Nonrecurring Fund account.
The council’s budget vote is slated for June 9. If they do not adopt an amended budget, Dickinson's proposal goes into effect automatically.
According to the document created by Shortell, the Republican team analyzed the total amount of unspent funds in each town department according to the last four Comprehensive Annual Finance Reports, from 2016 to 2019, and the April monthly finance report.
They applied a 50 percent reduction factor to the lowest saved amount for each town department from the same time period and concluded by making further revisions on a line by line basis, “to ensure that essential services were not negatively impacted,” the document states.
They came up with a total reduction of general fund expenditures of $451,625. Spending cuts totaled $527,625, but they increased expenditures by $56,000 in the Human Resources department for unemployment and $20,000 in the Registrar of Voters office for the primary election.
They then turned their attention to the $1,830,747 from the Electric Division’s PILOT in the Capital and Nonrecurring Fund. By redirecting $828,375 from the Electric Division PILOT to budget revenue, it would leave $1,002,372 for capital and nonrecurring expenditures plus $1.2 million in reserves.
There is still $1.2 million in unassigned funds in the Capital and Nonrecurring Fund that can be utilized for capital projects included in the upcoming budget.