In the height of budget season, the Southington Board of Finance (BOF) has a full schedule as they hear proposals from various departments in town.
The Board of Education (BOE) presented their budget proposal to the Board of Finance (BOF) on Wednesday, Feb. 8 prior to the regularly scheduled BOF meeting. BOE chair Brian Goralski said that the BOF truly understands their process and are very respectful when analyzing the budget.
“We have a great relationship with them,” Goralski said.
Aside from the scheduled workshops over the next few weeks, Goralski said the boards are considering doing a brainstorming workshop with various board members.
A schedule has been posted for each of the BOF workshops as they address different parts of next year’s budget. The workshops will be open to the public, but there will be no public comment. Each event will be held in the town hall council chambers at 75 Main St., on the second floor.
Tuesday, Feb. 21—The BOF will hear the assessor-tax collector budget at 6:30 p.m., the economic development budget at 7 p.m. and the police department budget at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 22—The BOF will hear the Department of Public Works, Highway and Parks at 6:30 p.m. The library and Barnes Museum budget will be heard at 7 p.m., and the Fire Department budget will be reviewed at 7:30 p.m.
“Department presentations are very insightful to people,” said BOF chair John Leary. He said that the presentations also serve to inform the board about what’s going on within various departments, how they apply their allocated resources, and if they’re adequately funded.
Given Connecticut’s fiscal crisis, town officials are aware of the great uncertainty this budget season. “Southington is very dependent on grants from the state government,” Leary said. A certain portion of the budget comes from state funds.
While he considers Southington a healthy community, Leary said that Connecticut’s fiscal problems will impact the town, forcing it to absorb more.
“The BOF is bracing itself for uncertainties at the state level,” said the BOF chair.
Town Manager Garry Brumback had similar thoughts about the difficulty of creating the new budget given the uncertainty of state funding.
“My goal is always to provide the services that the public wants at the best levels our resources can afford,” said Brumback. “The budget I present to the Board of Finance will have some areas I can’t change at this point, such as contract negotiated wage increases, health benefit costs and debt service.”
Brumback’s budget proposal is due to the BOF on Friday, Feb. 17.
After the board has heard from each department, an open public hearing will be available to all Southington residents. This is the meeting where Southington residents can offer input and voice concerns.
The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 6 at DePaolo Middle School where residents can address the BOF with comments or concerns regarding the budgets. Leary said that no presentations are made by the BOF that evening. It is strictly for public input.
“It’s very important in a democracy to have the real public there, and not just special interest groups,” said Leary. “We really do listen.”
At the conclusion of the workshops and the public hearing, the BOF may insert new items or may increase or decrease the items of the budget, except items of proposed expenditures fixed by law. The BOF may not vary the titles, descriptions or activity classifications specified in the budget.
The finance board must pass a budget by the first Monday in April and present their recommendations for final approval by the Town Council.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.