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Additional Savings Possible-Tax Increase Down To 2.6 Percent After New Insurance Costs Calculated



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Additional Savings Possible—

Tax Increase Down To 2.6 Percent

After New Insurance Costs Calculated

By John Voket

The 2011-12 townwide budget request with its originally proposed 3.2 percent tax increase was whittled down to about 2.6 percent after nearly $1 million in health insurance savings was applied. Finance Director Robert Tait calculated the savings after Newtown’s health insurance consultant reported the news prior to a Board of Finance budget session Monday, February 28.

The estimated 2011 contribution to the new Medical Self-Insurance Fund is $945,788 less than originally budgeted, bringing the total proposed cost to cover participating municipal and school staffers to $10,382,404, according to documents presented to the finance board Monday.

During the three-hour budget session, First Selectman Pat Llodra also detailed a list of requests made by town department heads that were either adjusted downward or eliminated from the final spending request currently under consideration by the finance board.

Some of the requests among those eliminated by officials in the final budget draft included funding for an additional police patrol officer at $60,000; a Parks Department maintainer at $43,000; management services for Fairfield Hills at $50,000; requests from Land Use and Social Services to increase part-time positions to full-time at $15,000 per department; and a $5,000 reduction in a staffing request from the Economic Development Commission.

A 1.5 percent increase in nonunion wages proposed at $33,000 was also eliminated in the 2011 request, along with another $30,000 in position compensation bumps for parks, finance and IT department personnel.

Other proposed expenditures were reduced ahead of the finance board’s deliberations because they were partly or completely identified as capital projects that may shift into the Capital Improvement Plan. That resulted in adjustments to the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers request from $444,000 to $170,000, and $1 million from the Sustainable Energy Commission, which was reduced to $5,000.

The original request to add $290,000 to the capital nonrecurring line was reduced to $225,000; a $55,000 sidewalk installation at Treadwell Park was shelved, along with a $30,000 request for a new vehicle for the town’s carpool.

Town clerk and land use requests for indexing materials were reduced by $14,000, while the budget for town side education and training was shaved by $50,000. The Booth Library request was reduced by $5,000 as well as $20,000 requested for police overtime.

Mrs Llodra said that in some cases, she took specific action to eliminate or reduce a request. In other cases, the first selectman said department or agency heads did not make a formal request in consideration of the need to be very frugal, but did communicate the seriousness of the need for future consideration.

The unanticipated drop in health insurance contributions also provided some financial flexibility for several late requests to be considered. While finance board Vice Chairman James Gaston initially said Newtown’s Charter does not permit the finance board to add to the proposed budget directly, Mrs Llodra confirmed after the meeting that the Charter does permit the finance board to add late budget items after selectmen submit their annual budget request.

Those requested increases include:

*$15,000 to compensate five employees who have elected to not join the town’s health insurance program.

*$150,359 for heating fuel, diesel, and gasoline — above what was originally budgeted for both the town and school district.

*$37,830 in interest for the most recent bonding initiative — primarily underwriting the final phase of the high school addition.

*$5,000 to fund additional activities tied to the Newtown Labor Day parade’s 50th anniversary.

*$70,000 for a planned school district organizational analysis

*$4,500 to underwrite services to Newtown residents provided by the human services agency Ability Beyond Disability.

Board of Education Chairman William Hart was on hand to hear the presentation by the insurance consultant, and said he was in agreement on accepting the $667,377 savings projected for his board’s budget request. Finance board Chairman John Kortze also confirmed some additional savings might be negotiated with Anthem by requesting some modest reductions in administrative fees and the stop-loss insurance that covers catastrophic claims.

An answer regarding those savings may be forthcoming by the time the finance board is ready to vote on its final budget recommendation.

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