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Legislative Council Begins Budget Review After No Show Hearing



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The Legislative Council conducted a public hearing — drawing no public attendance or participation — and then began its review of the 2023-24 budget proposals March 15 featuring presentations from Board of Finance Chair John Madzula and Board of Education Chair Deborra Zukowski.

Similar to last year, the council voted to send its budget review in parts to several of its subcommittees.

The Municipal Operations Committee was expected to review public safety, public works and recreation/leisure on March 22. The Finance and Administrative Subcommittee was expected to review general government, health and welfare, planning, contingency, debt services and other financing on March 23. Finally, the Education Committee will review the school budget on Tuesday, March 28.

The bottom line for the proposed combined budgets that the council will be reviewing is $133,296,498 — a $4,270,460 or 3.3 percent increase from the 2022-23 adopted budget of $129,026,038.

Those numbers may appear slightly larger than normal due to $900,000 being sent to the CNR Fund, but that money will not have an effect on taxes, according to Finance Director Robert Tait. The mill rate, which last year was 34.67 mills, has been adjusted, due to revaluation, to 26.39 mills.

A mill equates to $1 of taxation on every $1,000 of taxable property. Tait said the adjustment translates to an estimated 1.85 percent tax increase for most residents.

The proposed 2023-24 municipal budget bottom line is $47,811,847 — a $920,448 or 2 percent increase over the 2022-23 adopted budget of $46,891,399. The municipal budget includes debt service on all town capital projects including school district projects.

The school board’s 2023-24 budget request is $85,484,651, roughly a $3,350,012 or 4.1 percent increase over the 2022-23 approved budget of $82,134,639.

The Board of Finance, upon completing its review of the 2023-24 proposed budget earlier this month, approved the municipal budget with no adjustments but made a $185,000 reduction to the school district’s proposed spending plan.

The $185,000, representing $25,000 for a replacement sound system in the gym of Hawley Elementary School and $160,000 for stage lighting controls and stage curtains at Reed Intermediate School, is in addition to $546,000 in spending that has been moved to the Capital and Non-Recurring (CNR) Fund.

Officials recently moved an additional $900,000 from the fund balance to the CNR Fund to keep the town below the 12 percent cap for undesignated fund balance.

The $546,000 in school spending moved to the CNR fund is made up of $274,000 for technology, including 600 Chromebook replacements; and $272,000 for building and site projects, including $22,000 for flooring in the music room and carpeting in the main office at Hawley Elementary School; $35,000 for duct cleaning at Sandy Hook Elementary School; $25,000 for parking lot stairs at Middle Gate Elementary School; $85,000 for exterior painting, sidewalk replacements, flooring replacements, and door replacements at Newtown Middle School; and $80,000 to replace flooring and refinish the gym floor at Newtown High School.

‘...Not A Cliff’

Councilman Ryan Knapp expressed concerns about moving money for Chromebooks into the CNR fund, saying that replacement Chromebooks were paid for via FEMA funds several years ago, then COVID American Rescue Plan funds, and now with CNR funds. He felt that the town had created a spending cliff that was requiring constant outside funds.

“We keep doing this,” said Knapp. “I’m a little concerned we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Madzula responded, clarifying it “wasn’t a cliff,” and that it was a “marginal amount.”

“We’re not relying on it, we’re including it with other revenue,” said Madzula.

Knapp said the town may not have a surplus every year if it continues to budget tightly, and that he was “concerned about future councils.”

Rosenthal said he would agree that it was a concern if “it was to the tune of millions,” but this move is less than $600,000, and represents overtaxing in a previous year that is being recycled back to keep taxes down.

“It’s not a cliff,” Rosenthal echoed.

The first selectman added that the Chromebooks were originally in the regular budget and that it was the Board of Finance that moved them to CNR. Additionally, it would require a supermajority of the council of 8 votes to overrule the BOF’s decision.

Councilman Chris Gardner questioned the figure of the average 1.85 percent tax increase to residents, noting that his taxes went up 6 percent with revaluation. He asked if there was a range with the high and low increases for taxpayers.

Knapp said he was also concerned with that number because his math shows an average of a 3 percent tax increase, before including any spending increases. He also said he knows “a lot of people whose taxes are going up 6 percent or more, some in double digits.”

“There’s a lot of variability there,” said Knapp.

Look for continued coverage of local budget request developments leading up to the public budget referenda on Tuesday, April 25.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. qstorm says:

    Using the above mill rate on my new assessment, my taxes will go up $800 which is roughly 14%. Maybe someone will fill the potholes on my street now as my neighbors will have similar tax increases.

    1. nb.john.voket says:

      Our reporting has only offered examples that have been related to us by town sources. Those same articles have clearly noted that until the 2 upcoming budget requests have passed in referendum, and a new mill rate has been set, there is NO accurate way to estimate what any individual property owner’s 2023-24 property tax responsibility will be. We encourage any reader or Newtown taxpayer with questions to direct them to the Tax Assessor’s office, and not to rely on premature estimates or offhand comments as a guide.

    2. dennis brestovansky says:

      As stated before, the valuation is all about redistribution of the tax burden, said burden increasing because we keep voting in larger and larger budgets without any meaningful new sources of tax revenue.

      1. qstorm says:

        The issue being discussed is an unfair redistribution based on a pandemic buying frenzy blip for owners of small houses as they were most sought after. Folks with large houses will see dramatic reductions in comparison.

  2. qstorm says:

    You may not get down to the penny estimate but you can certainly tell which way the wind is blowing for many of us.

    1. nb.john.voket says:


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