Public voices budget concerns

Naugatuck resident David O’Connor speaks on the proposed $113.8 million 2014-15 budget during a public hearing Monday. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck resident David O’Connor speaks on the proposed $113.8 million 2014-15 budget during a public hearing Monday. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Residents aired their displeasure with the second proposed budget at a public hearing Monday night.

The proposed 2014-15 spending plan is $113.8 million, which is an increase of $2.91 million or 2.62 percent over the 2013-14 budget. The increase will be offset by revenues and under this plan the mill rate would be 44.68 mills or 0.12 mills less than the 2013-14 rate.

The budget is $1.42 million less than the original plan that was rejected by voters at a referendum July 29.

For most who spoke before the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses the spending cut wasn’t enough.

Resident David O’Connor said the total reduction proposed in the general administration section of the budget is $26,599 from the $2.9 million allocated.

“[That’s] less than one-tenth of a percent. It’s cosmetic,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the citizens would like the borough to find ways to make larger cuts.
Former Board of Finance member Matthew Katra, who spearheaded the first petition effort to force the referendum, said he wasn’t pleased with the fact that most of the money that had been removed from the budget was only being deferred to later years.

“There were some changes made, but most of them were only to delay expenses. Of the $1.4 million removed from the budget, only about $400,000 was truly removed. The rest was only deferred to later years,” Katra said.

Katra said the mill rate reduction was due to the use of one-time revenue, such as $800,000 from the borough’s fund balance.

Resident Kevin Kuzma said the problems the borough has with the budget have been long-standing issues and have hurt morale in the community.

“There’s a generalized low morale in town. Young families like my own, my friends’, and groups of people I socialize with, generally speaking, would leave if we could. If the values of our homes were adequate and we had an opportunity to move we would quite frankly. It’s sad in a way, but it’s true,” Kuzma said.

Kuzma said the issue isn’t just what is in the budget, but what the budget doesn’t address as well.

“There are a lot of little things that add up to the poor morale. Sometimes it’s just driving through town and the way the town looks, with overgrown weeds, bumpy roads, litter. They seem like little things, but they kind of add up and have a cumulative effect on the morale and psyche on the residents of the town,” Kuzma said.

Kuzma said he is not against paying taxes, but wants to know that he’s getting his money’s worth.

“I don’t mind paying taxes. You pay taxes in everywhere you live. Some are higher. Some are lower. Some you get one thing and some you get another. There’s just a general feeling among me and my peers that we don’t get what we pay for,” Kuzma said.

Resident Dilza Hawkins said she is on a limited salary and would find it difficult to pay for another tax increase on top of all her other bills. She questioned why town employees are getting raises, while many residents had not received a raise at their jobs.

“We are grateful we still have a job,” Hawkins said.

Former Board of Finance member Don Carten stood alone on Monday in voicing his concerns of cutting the budget any further.

Carten said numerous cuts have been made to services around town. He feared it would have a negative impact on his property value if any more services were cut.

Carten said for many people their home is their biggest investment. If there aren’t any services to attract potential buyers to the borough, he said, it will be difficult for people to receive a good return on those investments.

The joint boards will meet again on Aug. 12 for the final adoption of the budget. Another referendum can be forced if residents petition to do so.

On Monday Katra was collecting signatures. He said he wasn’t sure if he was going to try and force a second referendum yet. It will depend on what additional cuts the joint boards make to the budget, he said.