Officials adopt third spending plan

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Burgess Robert Neth, front left, and Board of Finance member Dan Sheridan, back right, review budget information Tuesday night during a meeting of the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses. Officials adopted a $112.9 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at the meeting. –LUKE MARSHALL
Burgess Robert Neth, front left, and Board of Finance member Dan Sheridan, back right, review budget information Tuesday night during a meeting of the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses. Officials adopted a $112.9 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at the meeting. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials adopted a $112.9 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year Tuesday night.

The adopted budget is the third spending plan put forth by the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses. The previous two budgets were forced to referendums and rejected by the voters.

The $112.9 million combined school and municipal budget is about $690,000 less than the second proposal that failed at an Oct. 14 referendum.

The spending plan includes a $60.9 million budget for the Board of Education and a $52 million municipal budget.

The budget represents an increase of roughly $2.8 million over the 2013-14 budget. Under the plan, the proposed mill rate would be 44.27 mills — 0.53 mills less than the 2013-14 tax rate.

Although spending would increase, the mill rate would go down because revenue, including a little more than $1 million from the contingency fund, will offset the increase.

A resident whose home is assessed at $150,000 would pay $79.50 less in taxes under the adopted budget.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said the process from the first budget presentation has been a very long one.

“I think we presented a responsible budget back in May. We responded to the first referendum and we tried to do the same for the last referendum. I know there are going to be those who are displeased no matter what, and I think many of us understand that given the fiscal challenges facing the community, but we have a duty to provide a fiscally-responsible budget that not only addresses this fiscal year but doesn’t negatively impact the future. That’s a very difficult balance that we are challenged each and every year to do,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo expressed concerns about the impact on future budgets. He said a municipality can achieve a decreased budget in most years if it willing to push the burdens off on future budgets.

“I’ve said many times you can have a tax decrease in any year depending on how you present the numbers and what you push off to future budgets. We’ve done that, but it does leave me concerned about future budgets and future taxpayers, which are, in many instances, the same taxpayers as now,” Mezzo said.

Finance Board Chairwoman Diane Scinto wasn’t pleased with the direction the budget went this year.

“I don’t like the budget. I think what happened is we’re passing things off to next year, and we’ll see what happens next year,” Scinto said.

Matthew Katra, a former finance board member who spearheaded the last two referendum movements, said he was not going to try and force a third referendum.

In a news release, he said a third referendum would push voting into the holiday season and residents would rather spend that time with their families. He added forcing another vote would push back car and property tax bills into 2015.

“Many residents rely on these payments as a deduction on their state and federal income tax returns,” he said.

The school and municipal budgets could still be forced to another referendum if residents petition to do so. About 1,350 signatures would need to be collected and submitted by Nov. 11.