Over Current Budget-Selectmen Cuts Should Net Well Over $1 Million In Reductions
Over Current Budgetâ
Selectmen Cuts Should Net Well Over $1 Million In Reductions
By John Voket
The Board of Selectmen get it.
That was the assessment of Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze upon hearing about the Board of Selectmenâs net budget reductions that were completed late Monday evening.
While calculations are preliminary, it appears the selectmen will achieve at least $1.2 million in reductions against the current yearâs spending. Once all calculations are checked and rechecked, the selectmen will move the townside budget proposal to the Board of Finance.
During the February 4 Legislative Council meeting, Selectman Paul Mangiafico appeared assuring council members that he expects his board to find even further reductions at a final meeting to be held before selectmen pass the town side budget proposal to the finance board.
By charter, both the town and school district must present 2009 budget requests to the finance board for further examination, and possible action, by February 14.
The Board of Finance had sent a letter to both the Boards of Selectmen and Education that called for unprecedented scrutiny and substantial reductions to each boardâs current budget allocation.
âThe Board of Finance wrote a letter about the dire straights we are in,â Mr Kortze said. âAs a result of their actions, the Board of Selectmen should be applauded for making tough decisions in light of current economic times â I think they get it.â
Mr Kortze said although it now appears the selectmenâs side of the budget proposal has been shaved to the bone, with numerous requested positions going unfilled, along with project and agency allocations sought at five percent below current funding, the finance board is still required to apply its due diligence to the process.
In the end, Mr Kortze surmised that ârevenues will be the tricky part.â
Speaking to that issue, Finance Director Robert Tait told the Legislative Council Wednesday, that the state Office of Policy and Management is reporting several sources of state funding to Newtown are scheduled to be reduced, despite the Governorâs statement to the contrary (see related story in this issue).
âIt looks like Newtown is getting a disproportionate reduction,â Mr Tait said. He indicted the town will receive a net $120,000 reduction in its PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) grant, which in part, compensates the town for state facilities within its boundaries like the Garner correctional facility and regional Governorâs Horse Guard headquarters.
In addition, Newtown is scheduled to receive $326,000 less next year from grants derived from a fund supplemented by the stateâs two tribal casinos.
On Monday, February 9, the finance board will review its schedule of deliberations and plan for its mandated public hearing. Mr Kortze assured that this year, he expects the finance boardâs review to be different.
âItâs my intent to schedule more meetings, and give the budget the scrutiny it deserves in these difficult economic times,â he said, adding the finance board hopes to arrange to televise all of its budget sessions.
In previous years, it was the finance boardâs practice to conduct one public hearing, one night of deliberation on each budget proposal â town and school district â and a fourth night to complete final deliberations before passing the entire package on for further Legislative Council action or endorsement.
The councilâs finance subcommittee typically reviews the finance boardâs recommendation and, if necessary, proposes further cuts or line item restorations, before the entire council considers the package. Then, the full council also holds a public hearing, and hears presentations from department representatives if necessary before moving an endorsed budget proposal to taxpayers for a scheduled April 28 vote.
On February 2, the selectmen set out to complete their deliberations by reviewing the final 16 budget lines remaining. The officials had already held more than 20 hours of deliberations over a four-night stretch.
During that final session, selectmen were successful in paring an additional $169,646, finding the lionâs share of savings in debt cost and health insurance reductions.
A savings of $50,000 was achieved in the health insurance line, which reflected a reduction in the level of staff participation in the townâs health plan, while $82,631 in interest savings were realized between the estimated and actual cost of a January 27 bond issuance.
Net staffing reductions also wrought an additional $21,405 from the bottom line, with another $10,000 savings coming from uninsured losses reflecting actual versus estimated 2008 experience.
The balance of savings came from a charge-back error between the tax collector and the town sewer fund ($2,510); a reduction in auditing expense ($1,000); a cut in the Legislative Councilâs legal fees based on current experience ($2,000); and $100 from the elimination of a Housing Partnership seminar account.
School Unions May Negotiate
The school board was poised to complete its final budget deliberations, which were postponed because of the weather from Tuesday until after The Bee went to press Thursday.
(Go to newtownbee.com for late breaking news on the school boardâs final deliberations.)
According to School Superintendent Janet Robinson, the final proposed cuts are scheduled to be acted upon by the school board during its regular meeting February 10. She said at press time that a 2.73 percent increase was still on the table.
She did say, however, that district union representatives were now âexpressing interest in coming in to talk about wage freezes.â She confirmed that the districtâs custodial union had already offered to reopen salary negotiations.
Dr Robinson said she has frozen her own salary, along with all other nonunion district employees, but could not discuss any union wage counterproposals until they became finalized.
On the town side, Selectman Paul Mangiafico said a number of the labor unions solicited in the hopes of reopening salary negotiations had offered to do so only if all unions in town, including school district units come to the table willing to discuss concessions.
Town Human Resources Manager Carole Ross confirmed that all town unions were willing to come to the table if the school district unions would follow suit. In addition, Ms Ross said non union town employees are facing a wage freeze in 2009.