SOUTHINGTON - The 2017-2018 budget was approved Monday by the Southington Town Council along party lines with Republicans for and Democrats against.
The budget increase, which town leaders have said was made necessary by proposed decreases in state aid, raises the property tax rate by 2.8 percent, from 29.64 to 30.48 mills. Under the new rate, the owner of a house worth $200,000 would pay $6,096 dollars in property tax.
The council had delayed adoption of the budget, hoping that the state budget would have been finalized by now. But it remains a work in progress even after the conclusion of the legislative session.
Town Manager Garry Brumback said the town based this budget on Gov. Dannel Malloy's original proposal.
"I spoke with the speaker of the House, Joe Aresimowicz, and he seemed to think this was a good idea," he said. "There is a lot of anxiety in municipalities associated just with not knowing. Nobody knows what is going to happen now. This may be the start of many years of shaky budgets."
Democratic Councilor Dawn Miceli opposed the budget.
"I'm hard pressed to endorse a nearly 3 percent tax increase," said Miceli. "We talk about the state, but I don't feel we're taken a hard look at our own backyard. I think more cuts can be made. As far as the Board of Education is concerned. I don't think we should cut middle school sports when we just revamped our fields. I will be voting no on all budgets."
"The amount of spending these last several years has been astonishing," said Democrat John Barry. "The Democratic members of this council have been raising waving flags. We have to stand up now for what people are thinking in town. I'm concerned for the elderly when their taxes go up and up on a fixed income."
The Republican councilors defended the budget and painted a dismal picture of the state's economic future.
"This is not an easy year and our team has been working well together like cogs in a machine," said Ed Pocock.
"We need to start planning ahead," said Paul Champagne. "We need to start thinking about things we never considered before like spending caps on pensions and reducing staff hours. We need to protect ourselves."
"We have been making investments that pay dividends in the long term," said Tom Lombardi. "We have also made staff cuts at top levels and consolidated workloads."
"Southington is not like other towns," said Victoria Triano. "We are investing in economic development and green energy and it has paid off."
"We are consolidating and reorganizing departments across the board," said Mike Riccio. "At the same time we took in $1.4 million in additional revenue this year while every town around us is flat or in the negatives. We're doing an unbelievable job and the state is doing a despicable job. We're getting a fraction back for our taxes."
Cheryl Lounsbury argued that the state is entering changing economic times.
"Aetna is leaving and, with the cost of living increasing, people are leaving," she said. "We have prepared and planned for this. We will feel pain this year, next year and the year after. The future will be grim and we are going to have to live within our means. This isn't just Southington, The whole state will be affected, especially our towns."
The total budget increased from $141,418,646 to $143,396,270. The general government budget, $49,635,654 last year, is $56,086,331 this year. The Board of Education budget decreased by 4.87 percent, from $91,782,992 to $87,309,393. The’ lost funding assumes that the governor's proposal to cut education cost sharing funds this year makes it into the final state budget.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.