While the Board of Education settled on a budget last month that proposed a near $3 million increase in spending, taxpayers aren’t likely to be asked to front a bill quite as large for general government spending.
In a budget released by Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback this week, general government spending would increase by just $590,000, or 1.31 percent, despite a plan that increases the information technology budget by 50 percent, addresses increases in obligations for health insurance costs and implements a line item for the rainy day fund.
“We believe this budget balances the need to maintain our infrastructure while still recognizing the difficulties in our economy,” Brumback said in a letter to town officials. “We are not asking for additional employees but are focusing on providing our existing staff the tools and equipment they need to be more efficient. I am proud that this budget funds the road improvement referendum which our citizens passed overwhelmingly and thus invests $11 million in our roads and bridges over the next couple of years.
“Additionally, it funds the initial bonds for the middle school rehabilitation project. The majority of increases to this budget are a due to an increase in capital requirements. Many of these increases are offset by revenues such as an increase in state aid and the close out of some smaller projects.”
Combined with the Board of Education's proposed budget, the total town budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year would be $131.23 million, a $3.49 million increase over the current year. It would represent an increase of 0.67 mills.
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Brumback said the proposal also aims to address growing IT needs through an increase of $270,000, which is designed to also take on the costs previously associated with other departments.
Board of Finance Vice-Chairman Joseph Labieniec said the goal of the increase, which was discussed during a Board of Finance workshop Tuesday night, is to move forward with a long-range vision to establish a complete virtual town hall and updating capabilities, both on the town side and within the schools.
But determining what the town’s taxpayers will be able to afford is also a concern that the Board of Finance will have to keep in mind as the economy continues to struggle, Labieniec said.
“There is certainly a need to address these issues, but it is a need that calls for more dollars as well,” he said. “We are charged by taxpayers with really watching over the town’s checkbook. To any of us on the Board of Finance, it means we need to make sure can justify the value of every dollar spent.”
While the budget addresses some important concerns, there are also positives to take away from the direction the town is moving in said Board of Finance Chairman John Leary. The 2013-14 proposed budget represents a balanced budget for the second straight year, meaning the revenues coming in are equal to the expenses going out, he said.
In addition, for the first time in town history, the budget also presents a separate line item to maintain a 10 percent (or higher) balance in the town’s rainy day fund.
This move is essential in providing more transparency and in eliminating an artificial cap that departments were asked to abide by previously in order to assure the fund remains at a proper level, Leary said. The rainy day fund must equal 10 percent of the entire budget, including the Board of Education budget.
“If every year the revenue increases, then rainy day fund must increase,” Leary said. “If we are looking at a $3 million increase in spending, that means we need $300,000 also put in it to maintain that fund balance. In past years, including last year, the town needed to generate surplus by design to keep that fund balance.”
These funds will be crucial in allowing the town to remain in good financial standing – Southington currently holds a Standard & Poors rating of AA+ – especially with costs for infrastructure projects and potentially the middle school renovations right around the corner. Both are included in the town manager’s proposed budget.
“We must remain fiscally responsible, but we must also look to continue the repair and replacement of equipment. Infrastructure can’t be ignored,” he said.
For a complete look at the proposed budget, be sure to scroll through the PDF above.
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