Town Council votes to approve budget along party lines

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

The Town Council officially approved the 2017-18 fiscal year budgets on Monday night, June 12. While the process usually wraps up in May, officials pushed off the vote, hoping for guidance from the state level. When the General Assembly session adjourned in Hartford on June 7 with no budget agreement, town officials didn’t want to wait any longer.

On June 8, the Board of Finance held a special meeting to re-examine the budget they proposed to the Council on March 29 but decided to leave it as it was.

During a recent BOF meeting, Town Manager Garry Brumback told finance board members that they had the option to reject the budget that was voted on, so that it can be restructured to account for the changing financial landscape.

The BOF decided to stick with their original recommendation and send it off to the council.

As it has for months, Connecticut’s problems caused frustration for Southington officials throughout the budget season.

“It’s very frustrating because we are asked to make decisions that impact our constituents in Southington and yet we don’t have information that is vital to make that decision from the state,” Democratic councilor Chris Palmieri said before the vote.

The general town operating budget was approved with a 6-3 vote for $56,086,331, which is a small reduction from the BOF recommendation.

A line item for Calendar House HVAC renovations amounting to $44,032 was removed because a brand new senior center is currently under construction. Therefore, no work to the existing building needs to occur.

Democratic councilors Dawn Miceli, John Barry, and Palmieri each voted against the general operating budget.

“I’m hard-pressed this evening to approve or endorse a nearly 3 percent tax hike for our community,” Miceli said. “Unfortunately, I’ll be voting ‘no’ for just about all of the budgets tonight.”

Referring to his fellow Democrats, Barry said, “We have stood up here year after year and raised warning flags.”

Republican members also voiced concern about financial hardships, but each one voted in favor of the proposed budget.

“This year I gave a State of the Union address, and since then we’ve had totals come in of $1.4 million in additional revenue,” Chair Michael Riccio said. “Not taxable, I’m talking revenue, when every other town around us is either flat or negative. We are fiscally responsible in Southington…however; we need to look to the future.”

Riccio explained to the council and the audience that he has met with Brumback every Monday morning for the last four years. “How can we fundamentally change how we deliver government services in our community and give more to people for less money? Those are the conversations that we have every single week.”

The BOE budget was approved for $87,309,939 with a 6-2 vote, and one abstention from Riccio. Miceli and Barry voted against it.

The Animal Control budget was unanimously approved for $242,872.

The sewer fund budget was approved with a 7-2 vote for $5,502,000. Miceli and Barry voted against it.

The council also motioned to proceed with the recommended funding strategies outlined in year one of the five-year capital improvement plan project list, which was approved for $8,784,463 on a 6-3 vote.

Following the council meeting, Brumback said that even though the state hasn’t completed their budget process, it didn’t hurt to delay Southington’s. By holding off 30 days, officials are more confident with their approval, he said.

Now, the Board of Finance will review the budget at their June 14 meeting in order to set the mill rate. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in town hall.

For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/06/13/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-june-16-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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