Borough begins work crafting 2021-22 budget

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — As the budget season begins to unfold, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said he aims to keep taxes level while improving more roads.

“My goal is to hold taxes flat, or as close as possible, while simultaneously increasing significantly the amount of road paving that we’re going to be doing in the borough,” Hess said.

The budget this fiscal year is $127.1 million. The tax rate, which is among the highest in the state, is 47.75 mills.

The Board of Finance began budget workshops Jan. 25 to hear departments’ requests. The largest request on the docket last week was from the Naugatuck Fire Department.

Fire officials proposed a $4.7 million budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which would increase department spending by $116,111 or nearly 2.5% from this fiscal year.

The majority of the increase in the proposal comes from increases of $44,057 for salaries and $49,554 for overtime. The increases would bring spending on payroll and overtime to $3.1 million and $1.2 million, respectively.

Fire Chief Paul Russell said the department is budgeting for the possibility that three people may resign while another three firefighters are eligible to retire. He said if all six people leave that would be the worst-case scenario.

Since this is the worst-case scenario, officials voted 7-3 to move forward with a flat budget proposal for the fire department and revisit the issue later. The vote is not final.

The final budget will be adopted in May.

Budget workshops are set to continue online via Zoom through late April when officials will adopt a budget to send to a hearing, which is scheduled for May 10.

As the process continues, Board of Finance Chairman Daniel Sheridan said in a later interview the board needs to be conservative on any increases proposed by department heads, citing concerns about continuous increases in health care and salary costs.