For taxpayers in Southington, a budget plan reached Wednesday provides a little postive news for their wallets: the town is in position to potentially avoid increasing taxes in the upcoming fiscal year.
After two nights of deliberations on the Southington Board of Education budget request, members of the Board of Finance settled on a reduction of $1.1 million from the original request for a $2.89 million increase in spending over the current fiscal year.
As a result of the cuts, the town is now in line for a 0.02 decrease in the mill rate, pending changes that could be made by the Southington Town Council, said Finance Vice Chairman Joseph Labieniec.
"We were able to address some of the capital needs in the (upcoming fiscal year's) budget using excess money in the capital fund or through harvesting funds from this year's budget," Labieniec said. "Using this money allows the town to address its capital needs while actually creating a slight decrease in taxes."
Let Patch save you time. Get stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
For the average taxpayer, the consensus reach by the board - the plan will not be considered official prior to a vote at the board's meeting on Wednesday, March 27 - would mean a reduction of about $4. This figure is based on homes valued at $250,000 and appraised at $175,000 according to Chairman John Leary.
Through a series of moves Monday night, Labieniec said the town budget was able to be reduced to $218,000 below the current operating budget but that over $500,000 will be addressed using the other funding methods. The only "true cuts," he said, were a $75,000 reduction in the Southington Fire Department overtime and a $25,000 reduction in overtime within the Southington Police Department budget.
But it took much further negotiation to reach a consensus on where to leave the Board of Education budget.
After discussions ended in a deadlock Tuesday night, five of the six finance members settled in to a $1.1 million reduction, leaving the Board of Education with a proposed budget of $84.23 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year, representing a 2.2 percent increase over current spending.
Wayne Stanforth had agreed to a $1 million cut after standing at $800,000 previously, but said he would decide next Wednesday whether to stand with the rest of the board when a final vote is taken.
"I respect the process and more than anything, I respect the goal set by John Leary to try and reach a unanimous vote," Goralski said. "For the board, however, this will be something of a hardship (if passed as presented)."
Goralski noted that the Board of Education had already reduced the school administration's proposal by $1 million and said difficult decisions would have to be made in order to balance the budget and cut $1.1 million more. He said the board now has "a very difficult task lying ahead."
The district had hoped to implement several new initiatives including an all-day kindergarten program and taking over the Applied Behavioral Analysis program from CREC. He did not say whether these proposals could be in jeopardy.
Even after the Board of Finance approves their budget next week, however, there could still be changes coming. The Southington Town Council will hold a public hearing on the budget in April and further deliberate before setting a final budget for the upcoming fiscal year. That budget is then sent back to the Board of Finance for the mill rate to be set.
"It's about respecting what one another does and respecting what the taxpayers are asking us to do," Goralski said. "The public hearing will be an important step in allowing them to share their ideas and opinions with the elected bodies. I hope they do so and I hope the Town Council listens."
Make sure to like Southington Patch on Facebook or follow on Twitter for breaking news, daily updates and more!