Councilors order contingency for state budget crisis

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Councilor Chris Palmieri introduced a joint letter, penned with council chair Michael Riccio that requested the town prepare for the possibility that the state budget doesn’t get passed.

Palmieri read the letter during the Sept. 25 council meeting, which the duo sent to Town Manager Garry Brumback and School Superintendent Timothy Connellan on Sept. 22.

“I’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the concerns Mike and I share with relation to the state budget or lack of state budget at this point,” said Palmieri. “Mike and I, along with the Town Manager, came up with something to try to hopefully remedy the situation and be proactive, rather than reactive.”

The letter stated, “We believe that we have to prepare to live under the governor’s executive order. The current executive order significantly reduces our municipal aid and eliminates our education cost sharing grant altogether.”

The letter also states that, in years past, the first Education Cost Sharing (ECS) installment of approximately $5 million would appear by the end of October. The request asks Brumback and Connellan to prepare for the possibility that the town doesn’t receive this installment.

“We are asking that both the Superintendent and the Town Manager prepare a list of how they would absorb this $5 million cut and the impact that this cut would have on operations,” said Palmieri. “We are optimistic that we will never have to exercise this option but feel strongly that it would be inappropriate not to at least start planning.”

At the meeting, Riccio explained that the first ECS installment of $5 million is one of four, totaling $20 million for the year.

“There is just no way that we could absorb that,” said Riccio. “It is really tough times to have to think that strongly about what’s going to happen, but to ignore it is not appropriate.”

Palmieri said that the BOE budget accounts for roughly two-thirds of Southington’s overall budget, and approximately one-third is allotted for municipal services.

Brumback responded in the Town Manager’s budget update report. “What we have been doing is going line by line though our budget and answering the question of, ‘What is the effect when these dollars go away?’” he said.

Brumback said that the department heads have been grouping their services into three categories: those mandated by law; those that are absolutely essential but not required by law; and things that aren’t essential core services—even if the town takes pride in these services.

Councilors send letter to the Superintendent and Town Manager

Parking on Eden Ave

Also at the meeting, Town Attorney Mark Scotia presented an 8-24 referral to the Planning and Zoning Commission on the hopeful Municipal Parking Lot on Eden Avenue.

Scotia said the lower part of the parking lot at Derynoski School would be “reenergized” by the Municipal Parking Lot. The Economic Development Strike Committee has been working with the Board of Education for eight months on the project.

It would have 48 parking spots, with two handicapped spots. Some repair needs to be done such as repainting, crack sealing, and a catch basin repair. The estimate from Engineering is $5,000, reported Scotia.

“It is unutilized parking space,” said economic director Lou Perillo. “Our hope is to spur activity. This is a very low-cost, efficient way to do so.”

The project was passed on a 6-0 vote with Tom Lombardi and John Barry abstaining, Dawn Miceli absent, and all other council members voting yes.

Southington joins suit

In another vote, the council unanimously voted to pass a retainer agreement in order to join Waterbury and over 20 other towns and cities in Connecticut in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical producers. Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary spearheaded the suit.

The lawsuit costs nothing for individual towns to join, and if a settlement is received in the lawsuit, all towns who have signed onto the suit will benefit from the settlement.

The lawsuit alleges that pharmaceutical producers engage in coordinated and sophisticated campaign to mask the risks of opioid medications while exaggerating benefits to create massive profits.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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