Residents have questioned a move by the Southington Board of Finance to approve cash funding to pay for the installation of synthetic turf at , a controversy sparked over the use over $500,000 for the town’s self insurance fund to help pay for the project.
Members of the board last week defended their decision, however, saying that the money being used from the self insurance fund is part of an 85 percent town investment into the fund and noting that using cash will help save nearly $200,000 in fees and interest over bonding the project.
“Using cash, at least for part of the project, is something that will save the town $25,000 that would otherwise have to be paid to the bond commission,” said Board of Finance member Sandra Feld. “By using cash, we have eliminated an extra $200,000 in taxpayer money that would have otherwise gone to the project.”
Garry Brumback said that in addition to the fee, the town stands to save an estimated $171,000 in interest over a 10-year period by using cash instead of bonding.
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to fund up to $920,000 in costs for the project using cash, a decision that passed by unanimous vote. Under the plan passed, $310,358 was allocated from the town’s 2011-12 contingency fund, with the remaining funding coming from a surplus in the Self Insurance fund.
Adjustments will still need to be made in order to meet the $920,000, however, as the surplus in the Self Insurance fund fell below $600,000 to end the fiscal year.
Members of the Southington Town Council still need to vote on funding for the project, which will be done at their next meeting on Aug. 13.
The Board of Finance has taken criticism for their decision, as residents have questioned why Self Insurance fund money was used in the process. It was something that led several former members of the Self Insurance committee to suggest that town officials were not considering town employees who pay into the fund.
John Leary, chairman of the Board of Finance, defended the decision, however, saying that 85 percent of the fund is paid for not by those who are paying in, but by the taxpayers themselves. Town employees are responsible for paying rates to fund the remaining 15 percent.
“It’s like going to dinner with a friend and expecting to pay $100. The friend puts in $15 and I am asked to take on the rest of the bill,” Leary said. “If we have a great time and decide to get a couple extra drinks, I would be responsible for everything over that $100.”
“If we don’t spend that $100, the $15 isn’t going to be refunded,” he said.
Leary said it has been common practice for any surplus in the Self Insurance fund to be used to help provide a reserve for the fund, as well as for one-time cash projects. The reserve fund is above 10 percent, which helped make the decision easier, he said.
Finance members backed Leary’s explanation and reinforced their decision during the Board of Finance meeting last week. Feld and Edward Pocock Jr. each said they felt it was important for the public to understand how the board came to its decision.
“When I’ve talked about the taxpayers, they want to know why we didn’t bond it,” Pocock said. “Tthe taxpayers want to know why we decided to use money. They need to know why we made the decision we did and I think this explains it.”
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