By SHERIDAN CYR
Town Manager Mark Sciota submitted his proposed fiscal year 2018-19 budget to the finance department on Friday, Feb. 16. Just one day after the Board of Education presented their conservative 2.27 percent increase, Sciota countered with a 0.01 percent increase in his general government budget proposal.
Sciota’s municipal budget proposes just a $7,281 increase from last year’s adopted budget. The increase is so slight that Sciota included an option to establish a $1 million contingency to serve as a buffer for the uncertainty of state funding.
Even with the contingency, Sciota’s budget would increase just 1.96 percent, topping off at $53,355,066. The 1.96 percent increase marks the smallest percentage increase in the general government budget over the last nine years. Since the 2009-10 fiscal year, increases have ranged from 2.0 percent (2012-13) to 14.32 percent (2014-15).
Sciota’s proposal does not contemplate any additional service levels, nor does it introduce any new employee positions.
“This budget is submitted after extensive work by our department heads who have taken the direction given to them by my office back in December and have truly met and in many cases exceeded my expectations,” said Sciota in a letter to the Board of Finance, included in the submitted proposal. “This has been a difficult year in which to prepare a budget, but I think you will agree that all of our departments have done an extraordinary job looking for possible savings and budgeting with our residents in mind.”
Southington, along with many municipalities across the state of Connecticut, is facing a difficult budget season with many uncertainties. The state has significantly reduced municipal aid during their budget adoption process, and will continue to do so throughout the upcoming year. It leaves municipalities with the undesirable task of either raising taxes, cutting services, or a combination of both.
All town departments were asked to report to the Town Manager’s office a detailed description of services provided. They were asked to essentially rate each service’s level of necessity and be realistic about what programs could be cut. The reports aid in the Town Manager’s considerations when preparing the budget proposal.
He also takes into consideration the 2017 Grand List, an annual assessment of taxable property in town including residential and commercial property, personal property and motor vehicles. This year’s assessment broke the $4 billion threshold.
“I would like to recognize the exceptional efforts of our development team and all that they have accomplished in attracting new business and new residential units,” Sciota said. “This past year we had a raise in our Grand List of 1.6 percent, causing increase in revenue of $1.9 million without raising the mill rate.”
The Town Manager’s and the Board of Education’s proposed budgets will be considered by the Board of Finance. After several workshops, they will provide a recommended budget, which the Town Council will give the final word on.
Once the finalized budgets are adopted by the Town Council, the process returns to the BOF, so the board can make any adjustments to the mill rate.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.