By SHERIDAN CYR
Discussions regarding the Board of Education and Town of Southington’s deficit mitigation plans continued at the Committee of the Chairs meeting last Wednesday, May 2, where Town Council chair Chris Palmieri introduced a possible option to appropriate additional funds to the BOE to reduce their deficit.
Out of the $3 million contingency fund that was reserved last year to be used against anticipated budget cuts from the state, the town received $450,000 (15 percent) and the BOE received $2,550,000 (85 percent). Palmieri proposed the town uses $263,000 of that, and allocate the remaining $187,000 to the BOE.
“We’ve said from the beginning that our intent was that if we don’t get additional state cuts, we’d try to offer more assistance to the BOE,” Palmieri said. “The allocation won’t close the gap, but it will get you a lot closer. Ultimately I think that’s fair, and that’s what we’ve said from the start.”
BOE director of business and finance Sherri DiNello said at the May 2 meeting the BOE has a deficit of $261,510. After the suggested appropriation, a $74,510 shortfall would remain.
The appropriation would have to come as a recommendation from the Board of Finance to the Town Council. Then, the council will need to approve it. Per Palmieri’s request, the BOF added the agenda item to their May 9 meeting. The next council meeting is May 14.
Both BOF chair John Leary and Palmieri noted the appropriation would need to be the final transfer.
“That’s got to be the end-game,” said Leary. Palmieri said the town is “out” after that and has nothing more to give.
Town Manager Mark Sciota said the portion that the town will hold onto will be used for road projects.
The BOE is still looking for possible ways to close their deficit. DiNello presented a few potential options to the committee of chairs. She described holding back on: $11,700 for PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) monitoring at two schools (a 5-year required monitoring plan as part of the middle school renovation project), $7,500 for radon testing and $25,000 for replacement of walkways and ramps for a total of $44,200 in possible savings.
“These were projects we were planning to move forward with,” DiNello said, “but in an effort for transparency and full disclosure, that money has not been expended and could potentially be put toward this $261,510 deficit.”
Additionally, DiNello noticed a substantial difference in the electricity accounts for the two nearly identical middle schools.
“There is no way they could be that far off,” she said. “I believe there may be an issue with the meter readings there.” Sciota said Eversource has been estimating and not giving full readings and stated credits may be allocated back to the BOE.
DiNello and BOE chair Brian Goralski thanked town officials for all of their assistance during this difficult budget process.
“You’ve done everything you can on your end, and we really appreciate that,” DiNello said. Goralski agreed and said the work they have done has been “incredible.”
“We know one thing is for sure,” said Leary. “We will close this gap. We are all one town. There is no way we’re not going to pick up this deficit.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Current Town Budget proposals for FY 2018-2019
For the General Government proposed budget click here:
For the Board of Education budget, including the Superintendent’s proposed budget and the BOE’s proposed budget, click here: SouthingtonSchoolsbudget
For the Board of Finance proposed budget, click here:
Observer coverage for this year’s budget talks