First Selectman Tim Herbst's proposed 2013-2014 budget would increase education funding by 2.74 percent, making it $92.9 million.
The total budget would be $151.9 million, with a proposed tax increase of 2.1 percent.
"Increases in the payroll tax at the federal level, along with tax increases at the state level, required the local budget to be as austere as possible," he said in statement Tuesday. "With all of these external forces to consider, I am guided by one premise. There are core services we must provide and improve, but we must measure the delivery of these services with that which our residents can afford to sustain."
Herbst said his proposal cut departmental requests by $5.5 million. The Board of Education had asked for a 4.5 percent increase to cover its technology plan, staffing, salaries and health care costs.
Herbst's proposed budget includes the following elements:
- There was an 8.6 percent increase in debt service, or $973,234;
- There would be increased funding of the town pension plans. The town would pay $5.2 million in a year;
- Public safety spending would increase in response to the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to seek two new officers and enact changes in Trumbull EMS under the recently discussed Holdsworth report. He's also asking for a "robust investment" training police officers.
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Elaborating on those elements, Herbst said:
- On debt service: "While many of us were not decision makers at the time the town elected to borrow more than $100 million in a five-year period for capital projects, we are now the decision makers who must now develop a plan to pay the bill."
- On pension funding: "Short term, we have aggressively increased annual funding in our operating budget to meet our pension obligations....For the first time in at least the last 20 years, we have finally reached the actuarial level of recommended funding for our town pension plan." Meeting that goal helps preserve the town's bond rating, he said.
- On Public Safety: "Nothing is more sacrosanct than the safety of our children....If our police officers are ever called upon to respond to an active shooter at any town building, school or facility, they must have continuous training and professional development to make sure they are more than ready to deal with any situation that is put before them. I am also supporting the replacement of critical life-saving equipment and vehicles."
Grand List Growth and More
Herbst also announced that the Grand List, or the list of all taxable property in town, is projected to grow. The tax assessor has estimated revenue growth of $840,000.
Several new businesses are projected to open this spring.
The first selectman proposed returning $1 million to the taxpayers to "offset a further mill rate increase." A mill is a $1 tax per $1,000 of assessed value, and the current tax rate is 30.71 mills.
"We will be able to provide some of our residents with tax relief at the same time we maintain a healthy general fund balance," Herbst said.
"Philosophically, I believe that residents should not be overtaxed and when there is excess taxpayer money that has accrued to the town over time that money should be returned to the taxpayer," he added.
Herbst further noted that $875,000 set aside to enact all-day kindergarten is also available for use by the Board of Education. Also, the town could see a bump in Education Cost Sharing funding from the state under Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed budget.
The town has been exploring sharing health care costs with the Board of Education to reduce spending.
There will be several budget hearings before the Board of Finance before the panel makes its recommendations. The Town Council then reviews and approves the spending plan.