By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
In a Town Council meeting on Thursday, March 1, Town Manager, Robert Lee, announced a proposed total budget of $60,056,058 for fiscal year 2019.
“My goals for preparing this budget for fiscal year 2019 were, by and large, to try as much as possible to maintain the current level of services currently provided to the citizens of Plainville, to continue to pursue opportunities to be more efficient in our delivery of services, continue to look at the ‘long run,’ and what I mean by that is resist as much as possible the ‘quick fix’ that can lead to future financial issues, and last but certainly not least, to be as clear and concise as possible while detailing the whole picture,” said Lee.
The total budget for the town is $60,056,058, which represents an increase of $1,530,867 or 2.62 percent. Of that figure, $37,322,912 will be allocated to the Board of Education; $17,533,146 will be utilized by the Town Government; $4,400,000 has been set aside for debt services; and $800,000 will be for capital improvements.
“If not for the health insurance rate increases, the overall budget would have been $80,481, or 0.15 percent,” said Lee. These numbers refer to the changes for the proposed expenditures, which increased by 5.13 percent for the BOE and 1.88 percent for the Town Government.
“There seems to be a little bit of a misperception with regards to the operation of this health insurance budget,” said Lee. “It is a town-operated health insurance we provide to the employees. We use a consultant, Lockton, to give us advice with regards to what they are recommending our rates to be for the next year, and we have budgeted half of what they recommended as an increase.”
Lee said the increase for the town government comes from a 2.81 percent ($128,421) increase to Public Safety, and a 4.63 percent ($155,161) increase to Employee Fringe Benefits.
Lee also reported the average expenditure increase for the past eight years, including the proposed FY19 increase, was approximately 1.51 percent.
On the revenue side, Lee is projecting a $116,663 decrease.
“Before every presentation, I always reference the vision statement for the district,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Maureen Brummett. “And that is our driver, much like the town manager mentioned the goals that he has, our driver is our vision statement of where we want to head as a school district to benefit students, teaching, and learning, and anything that I’ve put in the budget reflects that vision statement.”
Brummett began by explaining how midyear cuts to Education Cost Sharing grant of approximately $1.9 million, and because of the budgetary collaboration between the schools and town, the Town Council asked the BOE to cut an additional $220,000 from their overall budget. This led to the postponement of capital improvement projects, the letting go of staff, not replacing staff members that retired, and other sacrifices made by the BOE.
“As everyone is painfully aware, the ECS funding has not been as reliable as it has historically been,” said Brummett. “The question mark remains as to what will happen for next year, but I will say that I’ve been behind a bill put forth by the Appropriations Committee that seeks to limit the Executive Branch of the government, otherwise known as the governor, from rescinding any money once the budgets have been passed. I would like to see that go forward so at least we won’t have to experience midyear cuts as we’ve been doing for the past two years.”
There were many items on the facilities and technology capital improvement budget during the BOE’s budget process. Many of those items have been pushed back, including the removing of the underground storage tank at the middle school. But four items from technology have remained.
At $110,000, the replacement of the Chromebooks students in grades 6, who will be receiving them for the first time, 10, and 11. For $4,900, those sixth graders will also receive cases for their Chromebooks, to cut down on possible damage. For $87,500, 35 classrooms at the high school will receive updated projectors. And, for $45,000, there will be upgrades made to the network, which is utilized by the town as well as the schools, where it is housed. This totals $224,900.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, March 8, at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers.