By Rob Glidden
The Board of Finance approved a mill rate for the next fiscal year that will result in a tiny tax reduction for residents.
After its $129 million proposed budget was approved without changes by the Town Council, the BOF officially set the next mill rate at 27.46, a drop from 27.48. Officials said this represents about a $4 decrease in taxes for a median home in Southington.
“We’ve put forward a balanced budget where the revenues match the expenses,” said Chairman John Leary. “It’s essentially a flat mill rate.”
The finance board’s recommendation had cut $1.1 million from the Board of Education’s proposal, a threat to the planned all-day kindergarten program that drew numerous residents to the podium during public hearings. The Board of Education re-allocated its own budget on Thursday, after The Observer went to press.
The impact to the school district is expected to be softened somewhat by a reduction in the town’s planned expenses for self-insurance during the next fiscal year.
While the town cannot predict exactly how much will be spent on insurance issues in any given year, a seven-member committee goes through an annual process of trying to make an accurate prediction. The final number allocated is often changed during the budget process as new information about the current year’s insurance spending is available, and this year the committee reduced the amount by about $550,000 shortly before the Town Council’s vote.
The reduction was narrowly approved by the committee with a 4-3 vote and was met with some skepticism at the council’s budget meeting. BOF member Sandra Feld, a member of the self-insurance committee, said she felt “it wasn’t cautious enough.”
The board also addressed insinuations that the change was made for the benefit of the school district’s budget, since a large portion of the savings will be on the school board’s side of the budget.
“The timing of it comes off to people like it was done to help the Board of Education with their budget difficulties,” said BOF member Tony Casale. “I’d like to dispel that.”
Vice-Chairman Joe Labieniec stressed that the decisions are made based on projections and the suggestions of the town’s insurance provider.
“The sole purpose was to make the more informed decision and to try and be as accurate as possible,” he said. “There was no ‘raiding’ of the self-insurance fund.”