PLYMOUTH - The Town Council has approved a budget for 2018-19 that keeps the tax rate flat at 39.69 mills.
The budget was approved June 6, at a special meeting that was held weeks after the budget public hearing in April due to a lack of quorum. Mayor David Merchant said the delay was just as well, since in the meantime the state restored a $1.1 million cut proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy to the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant.
Board of Finance Chairman James Kilduff said that before the state funding was restored the town was looking at a projected 40.95-mill tax rate for the coming year.
The new budget totals $40,992,069, which includes a $175,000 decrease for the schools. Kilduff said the cut was within the amount allowed by the state’s Minimum Budget Requirement law.
Superintendent Martin Semmel said the only reason the school district could absorb that cut was because of changes in its insurance plan that are expected to save money.
Semmel said the Board of Education had worked to mitigate state cuts to the town for 2017-18 by cutting three literacy teachers, a secretary at Eli Terry Jr. Middle School, downgrading the position of assistant principal at Eli Terry to a dean position, sharing a single In School Suspension monitor between the Terryville High School and the middle school, and not filling a vacant part-time custodian position at Eli Terry, and not hiring a library media specialist.
“For the 18-19 budget we did not try to put all that back, if we did we would be looking at a huge increase in our budget this year,” he said. “So we brought back an ISS (In School Suspension) monitor, the library media specialist, and the custodian and at the same time we cut two teaching positions at Plymouth Center due to enrollment declines.”
Last fall the school board began looking at changing from a self insurance plan to a state plan, he said. “So we are hoping that when the dust settles that the insurance changes that we’re making will get us close to that $175,000. It’s is actually too close to tell now, there’s a lot of moving parts in terms of insurance.”
“If we didn’t make that change we would be cutting another five staff members to be dealing with that $175,000,” he added.
Semmel noted that the school district is also dealing with infrastructure problems, such as again roofs and the high school track, and will be needing to put those projects on the town’s capital improvements list.
The town side of the budget includes $4,500 towards a new Dial A Ride van. The total cost is $58,795, of which 80 percent will be funded by the state, finance board member James Zalot said. The town’s total share of the cost is $11,759.
The finance board’s contingency fund will also get another $200,000, for a total of $230,000. Town Finance Director Ann Marie Rheault said the contingency fund allows the finance board a cushion in the event of mid-year state funding cuts.
“The legislature passed a bill restricting the governor from making mid-year cuts to education. He vetoed that bill, it has not been overridden and I’m not sure if it will be overridden, but current law says that the governor may make mid-year cuts to the education part,” explained Town Attorney Bill Hamzy.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.