Borough budget heading to hearing

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials have backed a $125.1 million proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year to send to a hearing.

The budget proposal, which was approved by the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance on April 22, increases spending by $3.2 million, or 2.62 percent, over this fiscal year’s budget.

Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan said if everything remains as is, including projected state funding, borough officials will be able to reduce the tax rate by about 0.45 mill to 47.9 mills.

However, officials pointed out that a decreased mill rate doesn’t automatically mean a decrease in the amount of taxes residents will pay since the borough recently completed a property revaluation. How the revaluation impacted a person’s property values — whether an increase or decrease — will play a large part in determining the impact of the tax rate on individuals.

The budget will go to a hearing on May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Board of Education office in Naugatuck High School. The joint boards will convene again on May 15 to make any final changes and adopt the budget.

School spending makes up about half of the overall budget. Under the proposal, the Board of Education’s budget is $62.2 million, which is an increase of $200,000, or 0.3 percent.

The proposed school budget is about $2 million less than the request the Board of Education presented to the finance board. The reduction includes moving a $1.1 million debt payment into the municipal budget.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke asked the joint boards last week to restore some of the funding and approve an overall increase of $485,000 for the school budget.

The request drew support and criticism.

Board of Finance member Diane Scinto felt Locke’s request was reasonable. Scinto said the borough is spending nearly that much money on items it deems necessary.

“In our budget we have $190,000 to do Osborne Field, which is enhancing this town. So, if we are going to spend $190,000 on a field, which is important and we need to, I think this additional $200,000 for the Board of Education is just as important for what the town needs,” Scinto said.

Burgess Robert Neth said raising the amount the borough gives the Board of Education means it can never give anything lower than that amount.

State law requires municipalities to spend at least as much on education from one year to the next, with a few exceptions. Naugatuck is considered an Alliance District, one of the lowest performing districts in the state, and the state doesn’t allow funding to be cut for Alliance Districts.

“One thing you have to see is that you are setting the bar higher. Because we are part of an alliance grant, that means we cannot reduce [the school] budget next year,” Neth said.

Ultimately, the joint boards voted 9 to 7 with one abstention to keep the Board of Education budget at $62.2 million.

The proposed municipal budget is $62.97 million, an increase of approximately $3 million, or about 5 percent.

The increase includes $357,627 more for the police department, an additional $148,900 for the fire department, and $276,151 more for the water pollution control board.

Burgesses Dorothy Hoff and Jack D’Olivera were the only ones to vote against the overall budget. D’Olivera felt the revenue figures in the budget proposal are inflated.

Sheridan said he expects people will be receptive to the budget proposal.

“I think it is a fair and responsible budget. It takes care of the needs of community while keeping in mind taxpayers’ ability to pay,” Sheridan said.