Joint boards OK $115.6M budget

NAUGATUCK — The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses Monday night approved a $115.6 million budget for 2014-15 to send to a public hearing.

The budget is an increase of $4.68 million, or 4.23 percent, over the current budget.

The municipal budget is $54.2 million, an increase of $2.8 million or 5.56 percent. The Board of Education budget is $61.3 million, an increase of $1.8 million or 3.07 percent.

Controller Robert Butler said mill rate under the budget would increase 0.61 mills to 45.41 mills. The mill rate is the amount of taxes payable on the assessed value of a home. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Under a 45.41 mill rate, a home assessed at $150,000 will pay $6,811.50 in taxes, an increase of $91.50 over current taxes.

The budget increase is partially offset by higher revenue figures.

The school board is set to receive about $1 million more in state grants, while the borough will get an additional $300,000 in state grants, Butler said.

The borough will also receive a net gain of $390,000 from the sale of garbage trucks to Copes Rubbish Removal, which will begin picking up the borough’s residential trash in July.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 27 at City Hill Middle School. The joint boards will meet again on May 29 to make any final changes before adopting the final budget.

Some of the largest increases in the budget came from the health insurance costs, which went up nearly $1 million on the municipal side and $2.27 million on the school side. The budget also includes an additional $660,000 for a sewer study and facilities report on the borough’s wastewater treatment plant as Naugatuck prepares to meet the state’s new regulations on phosphorus and nitrogen.

The item that drew the most debate Monday night was a proposal to remove four firefighter positions. The budget heading into the meeting had removed the four positions due to anticipated retirements. 

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi contended the borough has a responsibility to fill those positions for safety and fiscal concerns. She said if the borough didn’t fill those positions it could result in over $350,000 in overtime costs.

In addition, the amount of overtime would have serious consequences on the amount the borough would pay for the firefighters’ pensions, Rossi said.

“Currently we don’t have all of our firefighters maxed out on their pensions on overtime, but if we don’t fill the rehires of those four firefighters, we will. Then that is pensions that will be paid for decades to come,” Rossi said.

The boards put the money for the positions — a net of $120,000 — back into the budget by a 11-3 vote, bringing the fire department’s total budget to $4.1 million.

The joint boards also removed $80,000 from the EMS/ambulance line item, completely defunding it for the second year in a row. The money would have gone to pay Naugatuck Ambulance, the borough’s current EMS provider. The borough and Naugatuck Ambulance have been at odds over the past couple years regarding payments and service.

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