By Lisa Capobianco
Southington residents who spoke at the Town Council’s public hearing Monday night offered their support to the proposed 2014-2015 total municipal budget, which will result in about a 3.3 percent tax increase for residents.
The school board’s proposed budget is a total of $87,072,005 for 2014-2015, which reflects an increase of 3.4 percent or $2.8 million over this year’s adopted budget. The school board currently has an adopted budget of $84,233,204.
Under the proposed budget, professional development increased $11,500 to meet the needs of the new evaluation system and the new state assessment program. The proposed budget also includes Phase Two of the technology plan and calls for the restoration of staff and programming previously trimmed, a request to bring back a library media specialist for both middle schools as well as restore a literacy specialist for DePaolo Middle School and a math specialist for Kennedy Middle School.
During the public hearing, Bob Brown, who has been a teacher for 40 years and the president of the Southington Education Association (SEA), thanked the finance board for supporting the school board’s proposed budget as presented, and asked the Town Council to do the same.
“This is an honest budget,” said Brown, adding that cuts have already been made to the proposed budget.
Brown added how public education is currently undergoing major changes, which costs the town more money.
“The state government and federal government are mandating Common Core changes…teacher evaluation changes, administrative evaluation changes, SBAC testing—all of that costs money—it costs money for personnel, for training, for technology—that’s why the budget has an increase in it,” Brown told the council.
Diane Stolz, a school nurse at Derynoski School, also addressed the Council. Stolz said the health needs have increased for children today, noting how school nurses are working hard to create plans that enhance health conditions in the schools.
“Asthma, diabetes, seizures—all conditions that are on the rise—just to name a few,” said Stolz, adding teachers work hard every day to accommodate the plans devised by school nurses. “These conditions can have a profound impact on a student’s learning—it’s also a tremendous responsibility for the nurses and all the school staff.”
“We need good, qualified staff in our schools and we need competitive salaries and competitive health insurance plans year after year to keep the staff in our schools,” Stolz told the council.
The proposed General Government/Town Manager 2014-2015 budget is $51.5 million, which represents an increase of 14.3 percent or $6.5 million. However, the budget proposal includes a one-time capital expenditure of $4.3 million to come from excess reserves to underwrite the increase, which leaves an increase in new funds of 4.85 percent. The adopted budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-2014 is $45,081,001.
The proposed budget includes a five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which prioritizes requests to replace old equipment and institute improvements to town buildings. The proposed budget also includes requests for two additional employees, a human resource professional and a civilian fire inspector.
“We consider this budget a balanced budget for the fourth year in a row,” said John Leary, the chairman of the finance board.
If the council approves both the general government and school board budgets as presented, the overall expenditure for the town will be $138,608,727, or a 7.2 percent increase of $9.3 million, reported Leary.
Leary said the budget will result in an average tax increase of 3.3 percent if both budgets are approved as presented by the Council.
“The challenge before us is to continually ensure that taxpayer money is spent in a manner (that) provides the most effectiveness and efficiency,” Leary said during the public hearing, noting that there was a no increase in taxes last year. “As we review the budget, we need to recommend an appropriate budget.”
The Town Council is scheduled to vote on both proposed 2014-2015 budgets by May 12.