Town leaders talk about state of town

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Town leaders partnered with the Chamber of Commerce for the annual State of the Town presentation at the Plainville Public Library on Jan. 18, providing a year in review for residents and workers in the Plainville community.

Municipalities in the state of Connecticut have faced, and are still facing, a rough budget season, with the state looking at a deficit of over $220 million. The “elusive budget from the state,” as Town Council chair Kathy Pugliese called it, called for a $1.9 million cut to Plainville.

“We create a financial plan each year, and we are reliant on state grants for important elements such as education and economic development,” said Pugliese. “We didn’t know about the $1.9 million cut until halfway through the fiscal year.”

In response to the cut, the council appointed a small subcommittee to find $600,000 in cuts within the town’s budget to attempt to combat the state’s demands. To make up the difference, the town was forced to introduce a supplemental tax increase of 0.75 mills, which will take affect Feb. 1.

“It was the last thing we ever wanted to do,” said Pugliese. “It’s certainly unfair.”

Town Manager Robert Lee said the tax increase was “unprecedented.” That being said, he presented a five year history of the town’s mill rate percentage changes, and the Feb. 1 tax increase doesn’t cause havoc to the average percentage change. Over five years, the mill rate has increased 8.22 percent, with 4.5 percent of that stemming from the supplemental tax increase. The mill rate has increased an average of 1.64 percent each year, based on the figures from the last five years including 2018.

Lee also reported in his presentation that in Plainville, 1 mill is equivalent to $1,320,998. Additionally, 0.75 mills is equivalent to $990,749.

“There is still a deficit projected after the supplemental tax bill is implemented,” he said. There is certainly not a lack of effort from Plainville town leaders to combat the state budget woes. Lee included a list of several potential savings in fiscal year 2018, including eliminating Sunday hours at the library, and holding off on filling three open positions.

Both Pugliese and Lee shed some light on a few hot topics in town, including the proposed dog park, the water pollution control plant upgrades mandated by the state, a running track replacement at the high school, and of course, the ongoing rail trail discussion.

“From my perspective, I think the trail will have some great benefits to the town,” said Lee. “It has been a popular trend in the United States. It is used for exercise, for getting out in the community, and is a safe avenue for alternate travel in the town.”

He added it would offer potential safety improvements to Broad and Pierce Street, as well as be an alternate connection to the New Britain CTFastrak station. Additionally, it would provide economic development benefits to downtown merchants.

Mark DeVoe, director of planning and economic development, reported that this was “probably the second most productive year we’ve had for the last 10 years,” for economic development in Plainville, with 35 business openings and a total of 137,000 square feet for commercial and industrial space being approved. Many are already under construction, he said.

Plainville saw businesses open up spanning from spas to restaurants, from retail to laundromats, from auto repair shops to salons, and even an indoor basketball court.

“We think 2018 bodes to be busy from a planning and economic development perspective,” said DeVoe.