Finance board backs $127.4M borough budget

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Naugatuck Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan discusses the budget during a Zoom meeting April 21.

NAUGATUCK — After making $822,056 worth of reductions from what department heads requested, the Board of Finance last week adopted a $127.4 million budget proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

“I think we made some substantial reductions,” Board of Finance Chairman Dan Sheridan said. “I’m pleased with the finance board recognizing what we want versus what we need. I’d expect further reductions to take place.”

The $127.4 million budget proposal increases spending by about $2.2 million, or 1.8%, over this fiscal year. The Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance is scheduled to review the proposal Tuesday and adopt a spending plan for a hearing. Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said last week officials were still finalizing how the budget process will proceed after the joint boards adopt a budget proposal.

The bulk of the reductions made by the finance board came from the school and capital budgets.

The finance board decreased the Board of Education’s budget request $475,331 to a flat $64 million, which would increase the borough’s education spending by $1.8 million over this fiscal year. The school board’s proposed total operating budget stands at about $74.1 million, which includes additional supplemental and grant revenues.

The board decreased the capital budget by $332,525 to $1.8 million. The reductions included decreasing the amount for paving streets by $150,000, and cutting $64,000 for security upgrades for doors at Town Hall and $38,000 to upgrade the kitchen at fire headquarters.

The cost of insurance, including health care, for the school board and borough is projected to increase by about $1.7 million.

The proposed spending plan would also increase the fire department’s budget $284,374 to $4.6 million, the public works budget $163,157 to $5.5 million, the police department’s budget $150,000 to $7.1 million, and the budget for information technology by $129,296 to $726,824. Contractual increases are driving the factor behind the rising budgets.

It’s unclear how the COVID-19 outbreak will impact the borough’s operations when the new fiscal year starts.

Public Works Director James Stewart said he doesn’t know whether the borough will run summer programs this year.

“We can save money as we go along. If it doesn’t make sense to have that program, we’re going to take that money and move it around,” Hess said. “We’re adopting a budget but just because we adopt it doesn’t mean we’re going to spend the money.”

How the proposed budget will impact the tax rate depends on revenues, which were unclear as of last week. Sheridan said finance board members didn’t have the revenue side of the budget.