Residents swarmed to the YMCA last Wednesday to celebrate 90 years of history for the Southington business. The following day, former teachers and administrators joined current staff and students in the DePaolo Middle School auditorium to celebrate the school’s 50th birthday. Even the Apple Harvest Festival officials joined the anniversary celebrations, naming the Southington Observer as the official newspaper and media outlet for the 50th festival this fall.
With a week of anniversary celebrations, it would be easy to look back, with nostalgia, at the rich history of the Town of Southington. But it’s probably more appropriate to look ahead. On Monday, the Town Council came together for a bipartisan vote to pass the 2018-19 budget, and that has left us excited about Southington’s future. While the state continues to scramble with financial issues, growing debt…or even a surprise surplus, Southingon’s tax payers can breathe a sigh of relief. At least the town is stable.
It hasn’t been a fun process. There was finger pointing between boards and even within parties. There were threats about teacher layoffs and cuts in spending. There were small successes followed by even bigger fights, but it resulted in a bipartisan agreement with no increase in local taxes. Take that, Mr. Governor! Despite arbitrary midyear cuts from the governor that forced town officials to simultaneously cut spending in the current year while they wrangle with the needs of the upcoming year, Southington came out on top. Meanwhile, state leaders can’t seem to agree upon the size of their deficit or their priorities for handling it. (Most recently, state officials began championing a surplus. Keep tuned.)
That’s why it’s no surprise that Southington officials are beginning to take on a visible role at the state level. We don’t think it’s a surprise that one of the town’s representatives—a Democrat—is the current Speaker of the House in Hartford. It’s also no surprise to us that one of Southington’s state senators—a Republican—was selected last week by his party to run for lieutenant governor. Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D) and Sen. Joe Markley (R) are fundamentally different politically, but each has shown support for Southington’s ability to rise above challenges. Local officials have proved that party differences don’t have to divert anyone if they can agree upon a common goal. Hopefully, the state will follow Southington’s lead as they try to fix their own financial problems.
Now comes the fun part. The Town Council vote isn’t the end of the process, but it certainly does set the tone for the rest of the fiscal calendar.
The Board of Finance met to set the mill rate on Wednesday (after we went to press), so check us online for updates (at www.SouthingtonObserver.com) or wait until next week’s edition. Don’t worry. There shouldn’t be any surprises. With a flat tax increase required for next year’s budget, setting the mill rate should feel like a ticker tape parade. It’s really just a matter of procedure.
We expect the tone to be equally optimistic when the Board of Education votes to adopt the budget at their next meeting. They didn’t get everything they wanted, but they fought hard to protect Southington’s education system under more scrutiny than they might be used to getting. They were helped incredibly by a Town Manager that tightened his belt to help schools get an increase. It was a true community effort.
Now there will be a short reprieve with no more threats of teacher layoffs, cutting programs, or slashing spending—unless, of course, there’s another tantrum by the governor.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@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