Town Council Nearing Final Budget Decisions

by LonSeidman

After over a month of hearings involving each town department and the Board of Education, the Town Council is holding its final deliberations on the budget at a workshop tonight at Alcott School. Mayor Thomas G. Dunn proposed a Municipal Budget which is $723,517.51 lower than last year’s. Most of this savings came from refinancing the town’s debt service to lower interest rates.

Click Gen’l Gov’t 2011-2012 Proposed Budget to view Mayor Dunn’s proposed budget

The Board of Education is submitting a level funded budget, although Superintendent Joseph Macary cautioned the Council that their budget includes about 2.11% funding from a one- time Jobs grant from the federal government. That grant, proposed by President Obama intends to soften the blow to education jobs while State and local governments grapple with decreased revenues because of the recession. In their presentation to the Town Council, Macary and BOE Chairwoman Patricia Najarian noted that this funding probably wouldn’t be available next year. The Board of Education’s budget is nearly 2/3 of the entire town budget.

Wolcott’s Town Council also >serves as its Finance Board and can reduce expenditures to any line item in the Municipal Budget or the overall allocation to the Board of Education’s budget. The nine members cannot reduce any line item in the BOE budget.

Thus far, most of the public discussions on the budget have been simply finding out questions as to what expenditures in the budget will go towards. The Council has four members in their first term and Rachel Wisler (R-2nd District) has only been on the Council for a few months. Yet, the inquiries prove informative as to each department’s role in town and an opportunity for department heads to highlight their operations and plans for next year.

The one additional number which members need to know is the Town’s Grand List. That is the value of all property in town which is taxed. This includes housing, land, and motor vehicles. Town Assessor Pam Deziel told the Council that overall property values have declined in Wolcott significantly. However, the grand list has been largely buoyed by a larger percentage of new cars. When the federal government sponsored a “cash for clunkers” program a few years ago, two things occurred. First, some residents got rid of their older vehicles in favor of newer ones which are generally more valuable. Because fewer older cars are on the road today, a second impact is that these cars are more valuable because there is a smaller supply.

The State Government also is expected to impact the local budget. Wolcott receives about $13 million from the state in various revenue ranging from educational grants to plowing and paving revenues. If the state government’s agreement with state unions fails, Gov. Malloy’s budget office has warned that towns will lose a proportion of their state revenue. For Wolcott, that could be over $5 million, or about 12% of the overall budget. This would cause a huge problem for local officials. The state legislature isn’t set to finalize its budgets until early to mid June. The Town Council is set to complete its budget on June 6th.

A public hearing was held last Tuesday on the budget. Only two residents spoke, both asking that the Town Council maintain education funding, citing their children as benefitting. The BOE is expecting a reduction in student enrollment, a number which has steadily fallen over the last 5 years. However, the same number of teachers are expected to be employed because the loss in enrollment is spread thinly across all grade levels. Some teachers will be shifted from one grade level to another however as population ‘bubbles’ make their way through the school system.

While no votes will be taken at the informal workshop tonight, it is open to the public. It will take place in the finance office conference room in the 3rd floor of Alcott School. It will not be viewed on Ch. 96.

To view the Town Budget, please click: Gen’l Gov’t 2011-2012 Proposed Budget
You may also right- click to download this Adobe file. Click on “View” and rotate counter clockwise to view the pages which are in landscape format.

The Board of Education budget is not available online.

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