Board of Finance (BOF) members sat on the DePaolo Middle School stage Monday night and listened to Southington residents voice their opinions about the upcoming fiscal year budget. Before opening the podium to community speakers, BOF chair John Leary kicked off the public hearing with remarks about the process.
Speakers had to be Southington taxpayers and were limited to three minutes apiece. The number that came out to speak was smaller than other years, Leary said.
Before turning over the microphone, Leary told the audience that with a careful oversight process, the BOF will recommend a budget to the Town Council. This includes both the Town Manager and the Board of Education (BOE) budgets.
“Once the budget it approved…the amount of money needed to balance the budget is levied to property owners based on the value of the property they own,” Leary said.
The majority of those who addressed the board were members of the community and not elected officials or town employees, however, the audience was mostly the latter.
“Most of the audience was employees of the BOE and managers from the town side,” said Leary. “They only observed.”
Similarly, the BOF also observed. They did not comment or question anything said during public participation. But they did take notes.
Of those residents that spoke, about half were speaking against large cuts to the BOE budget. “Children are the future,” one woman said. Another commented on the student impact from schools that lose programs and funding.
The other residents discussed the importance of being frugal when preparing the budget. They voiced concern about tax increases because there are already so many people struggling to make ends meet. Others noted the current fiscal crisis at the state level, which will impact Southington directly.
When sending his budget proposal to the BOF last month, Town Manager Garry Brumback recognized this impact.
“The budget practically goes up by 8.16 percent,” Brumback wrote to the board. “However, had there been no cuts from the governor’s office or additional expenses from the governor’s budget, this budget would only go up 2.62 percent.”
According to the town charter, the BOF shall adopt a budget with the vote of four members and send it to the Town Council by the first Monday in April. The BOF plans to do this at their March 22 meeting.
“Traditionally, our budget has just been a Southington affair,” Leary said following the hearing. “Now the state, with its fiscal instability, is playing a big role in the local budget.”
The Council will then hold a public hearing on Monday, April 24 at the John Weichsel Municipal Center. The Council needs to adopt the budget no later than May 8 and the BOF will fix the tax rate accordingly by May 15.