At its March 9 budget review session, the Board of Finance heard details of a $300,000 savings opportunity in the town’s self-insured employee heath fund.
Employee Medical Benefits Board Chairman Mark Mattioli and board member Jim Loring appeared to answer questions and to amplify significant points in a memo sent to town Finance Director Robert Tait and Newtown School District Business Manager Ron Bienkowski.
Over the course of its last two meetings on February 25 and March 2, the Board of Finance continued its review of the municipal and school district budget proposals, and continued its attempts to define possible additional areas of taxpayer savings.
On March 2, the Board of Finance continued its review of local budget requests for the 2015-16 fiscal cycle, examining dozens of details in the Board of Education’s $72,253,488 proposal representing a 1.27 percent hike over the current year.
But less than two days later, the district adjusted its budget request to $71,915,679, representing a 0.8 percent increase, because of an action to reduce district contributions to the town’s self-insured employee health plan.
The work of Newtown’s finance authorities is axiomatic: seek economy in the increasingly expensive enterprise of running a town. And in watching the early work of the Board of Finance and the Finance Department impacting the next budget cycle, some actual axioms come to mind. Waste not want not. A penny saved is a penny earned. Less is more. For some residents who may, for example, suffer a bone-jarring commute along some of the town’s more pothole-pocked byways twice a day, the economic zeal of budgetmakers may seem more like parsimony.
During its regular meeting September 8, the Board of Finance approved contributing $47,185 the school district compiled from dozens of smaller line item surpluses in the 2013-14 budget, to a nonlapsing account earmarked for anticipated security-related “building hardening” expenses.
The distribution will act as matching funds to qualify the district for a larger security grant.
There is a certain subset of Newtown inhabitants who don’t need signs or maps to identify Church Hill Road. They see the churches from stone steps to spires, and their own heart rates and respiration tell them it is a hill. They are sidewalk walkers. We see them every day from our office perch on the eastern slope of Church Hill within earshot of the snap of the town’s famous flag — just below where the sidewalk ends. Unfortunately, it is not the magical and poetic place made famous in every child’s imagination by Shel Silverstein.
Saying she was presenting a spending plan that the Board of Education believes “helps us meet our budget goals,” which in part, plan “for the future needs of the Newtown public school system,” board Chair Debbie Leidlein reviewed a number of points in the proposal that will face further Board of Finance deliberation in the coming days.
The majority of the 20 residents who participated in the Board of Finance public hearing ahead of 2014-15 budget deliberations February 20 either asked officials to hold the line on the zero increase requested by the Board of Education, or to restore the $139,000 reduction made by the school board members before endorsing the final budget request.