By Rob Glidden
Town officials looked back on a busy year and discussed the challenges of the next 12 months during the State of the Town event at the Manor Inn.
The relatively new tradition was introduced by the Chamber of Commerce in 2010 and this year’s dinner event included comments from several town administrators in addition to the council. The remarks referenced the many changes that came to Southington over the last year, including the turf field, the new municipal building and the troubled but still on-track middle schools renovation.
“Southington is in great shape compared to municipalities around us,” said Chairman John Dobbins during his brief power-point presentation. “The state budget is a concern for both the town and the Board of Education, but it’s too early to see how it will play out.”
Some of the council members referenced the recently completed grand list for 2013, which reveals that the amount of taxable property in Southington has gone up by 0.45 percent. This translates to about $450,000 in additional revenue, which officials regard as essentially flat when the combined budget of the general government and the Board of Education is expected to be over $120 million.
The previous year’s grand list was a decrease of over 8 percent that was tied to the results of the 2011 property revaluation. Dobbins said during his remarks that the expected arrival of more incoming businesses, particularly the Connecticut Online Computer Center (COCC)’s impending move from Avon to West Street in Southington, would yield significant economic results in the coming years.
Councilor John Barry said the town would need to be careful how much of a burden it placed on taxpayers.
“We’ve been lucky and we haven’t been hit hard by state cuts, but this year could be tougher,” he said. “We have a very small grand list increase and a high mill rate. We need to be cautious moving forward.”
Town Manager Garry Brumback recalled that the 2011 State of the Town was one of the very first events he attended as Southington’s new top administrator. He said he was pleased with the steps the town had taken on infrastructure, including a successful $11 million referendum for maintenance on roads and bridges.
“Taking care of what you have is always less expensive in the long run,” Brumback said.
Police Chief Jack Daly and Fire Chief Harold Clark also gave brief statements, assuring the public that their respective departments were “in great shape.”
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Erardi spoke on behalf of the school district, expressing a lot of pride in local education but also some trepidation about the challenges ahead.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and this is the most difficult time for public schools that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “But I still believe in the glass being half-full and we have a lot to celebrate.”