By SHERIDAN CYR
The Board of Finance adopted the 2018-2019 budget on March 27. The budget contains both the general government’s and the Board of Education’s budgets as one entity.
The BOF unanimously adopted the general government proposed budget at $53,346,066 with no changes, but deducted $1,504,000 from the BOE’s adopted proposed budget of $96,816,329. The BOF unanimously approved a BOE budget of $95,312,329.
BOF chair John Leary said the BOE’s budget was “a difficult line item.”
“There’s a connection between this line item and a reduction in state grant funding to Southington,” said Leary. “We really need to move along and have a strategy session, so that our education programming isn’t so dependent upon state funding. I’d like to think of ways collaboratively with the BOE, so that we can sit down and come up with a multi-year plan of where we, as a town, want to be.”
He commented that he doesn’t want the town to feel their hands are tied due to issues with state funding, but to rather be more self-sufficient and less reliant on the state government.
BOE chair Brian Goralski said he was “incredibly disappointed” with the BOF’s decision to approve the reduced BOE budget.
“We as a board attended the BOF’s last public workshop, and it seemed the consensus was in a very different place,” said Goralski. “The cut came after a caucus of the BOF during their meeting, with no public explanation.”
He said administration is working on figuring out specific details on where the reduction will come from, but that ultimately it will result in a reduction of services and staff.
“If we want a quality education, we have to pay for it,” said Goralski. “It’s just too convenient to blame the state for our financial situation.”
Goralski said the BOE has done a better job of articulating its needs, and presented an honest budget, while defending every dollar. He remains hopeful that the Town Council will listen to residents at their public hearing and restore that money.
The BOF complimented the general government’s proposed budget.
“I felt the Town Manager did a great job on the budget this year,” said BOF member Kevin Beaudoin. “This is one of the best budgets we’ve gotten in years.”
Vice chair Joseph Labieniec thanked Town Manager Mark Sciota and his department heads for their work on the budget, which included a 1.96 ($1,007,281) percent increase from the previous fiscal year. Sciota included a $1 million contingency in the budget to prepare for the unknown. Before the contingency, his budget included an increase of 0.01 percent ($7,281).
Now that the BOF has adopted the budget, it will be reviewed by the Town Council. The council will hold a public hearing on April 23 at 7 p.m. The hearing is scheduled to be held at the municipal center, but at the last council meeting, the chair said they were looking into reserving a larger space to accommodate more speakers.
After the hearing, the council will further review the budget, and adopt it on May 14. Then, the budget returns to the BOF so members can set the mill rate on May 21.
Following the adopting of the budget, agenda item “V. Assess current financial state of the town” was tabled as the finance director was not able to attend the meeting.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.