Manager’s budget calls for 1.49% hike

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

The town of Plainville has a total proposed budget of $58,500,194 for next fiscal year, which represents an increase of $857,731 or 1.49 percent over the current budget.

Last Thursday, Town Manager Robert Lee presented the town’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 to the Town Council. The all-day budget vote this year is scheduled for April 25.

The total proposed increase for the general government side of the budget is $178,999, or 1.05 percent. Major drivers of this increase include salaries and benefits, as well as liability insurance. Utility costs, however, are expected to decrease for next fiscal year.

While revenues are expected to have a slight decrease by about $75,000 overall, both debt service and capital projects are not recommended to increase in the proposed budget.

If passed as presented, Lee’s proposed budget for next fiscal year could increase the current 31.99 mill rate to 32.68, which represents a 2.17 percent increase in taxes. However, since this year marks a revaluation year, said Lee, property owners will see a different tax increase based on whether their assessments increase or decrease. Town staff created a spreadsheet that shows the potential impact of the proposed budget on each property owner in Plainville. The analysis is available on the town’s website and copies will be available at the library and town assessor’s office, said Lee.

“Town staff has put together a spreadsheet showing the potential impact to each of the property owners in Plainville,” said Lee. “This analysis does show a significant number of residents who will see a decrease in taxes as a result of the proposed budget, while others will see increases.”

Over the last seven years, the town’s increase in budget expenditures has been an average of 1.5 percent, but this could change if state lawmakers pass Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed FY 18 budget, which shifts over $400 million in teacher pension costs to municipalities.

If the town is required to contribute to teacher pensions, Plainville’s total proposed FY 18 budget could increase by 4.83 percent to $60,427,622, said Lee  when pointing out the state budget’s impact on Plainville. Under Malloy’s $20 billion budget proposal, Plainville could end up contributing $1,927,428 in FY 18 to the Teacher’s Retirement Fund.

This also could also result in a 6.65 percent increase in taxes.

“This is particularly a challenging year due to the uncertainties that are occurring at the state level,” said Lee, adding that the Teacher’s Retirement Fund has been mismanaged for years.

With uncertainty that remains at the state level, Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese said this is going to be an “extraordinary” budget year for municipalities, assuring the public that town officials will do its best to prepare the budget carefully.

“The obligations that the state has passed on to every city and town were unexpected, and are certainly very large when it compares to our total budget request,” said Pugliese, adding how town officials will keep ongoing communication with Plainville’s legislators during the budget process. “We will take our time to deliberate. We will be asking questions, and we will be doing everything we can to produce the best fiscal plan for the town of Plainville for next year.”

School officials also have expressed concern for the impact of Malloy’s budget proposal. Recently, Plainville Supt. of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett testified before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.

“I’ll do what I can as Superintendent to continue to voice my opposition to a budget that is harmful to most of the kids in the state of Connecticut,” said Brummett, noting how she was appalled by Malloy’s proposed budget.

Last December, the district learned of a $96,499 reduction in its Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. This mid-year reduction came after the district already had a $74,629 reduction in ECS funding last spring. In addition, the district also experienced a $100,000 loss in its Open Choice grant and a loss in transportation funding.

“We’re on track to finish the year with a balanced budget” said Brummett. “We have set aside $100,000 as part of our agreement with the town to help make up for that lost ECS money.”

During the meeting, Brummett presented the Board of Education’s requested budget of $35,503,096, which represents an increase of 1.95 percent or $678,729 over the district’s current budget of $34,824,367. Major drivers of the budget increase include salaries and benefits, as well as health insurance and transportation.

School capital improvement requests total $387,050, and focus on safety/security and technology.

Brummett said school officials made various staffing changes before reducing the total budget request to 1.95 percent. Most of these changes were made at the high school, such as reducing college and career support staff and eliminating a tutor due to the loss of the Open Choice grant.

However, tutoring support was added in the area of ESL (English as a second language) for high school and middle school students.

“We’ve had an increase not necessarily in the number of students with ESL needs…but in the different languages we’re getting into the district, so we do need to increase some ESL support,” said Brummett.

A public hearing on town’s proposed FY 18 budget is scheduled this Thursday, 7 p.m. in the Municipal Center’s Council Chambers.

For more information about the proposed budget, visit the town of Plainville’s website, www.plainvillect. com/.

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.