First Selectman Vicki Tesoro praised the bipartisan, cooperative work of the Board of Finance in approving a budget that differed only slightly from the one she proposed last month. The board unanimously passed a 2019-20 municipal budget of $174.9 million, a difference of $63,000 (.04%) from Tesoro’s proposal.
“The budget I submitted funds public safety and education, addresses the proposed state actions without resorting to contingencies or dipping into the town savings, and does so with only a small increase in taxes,” Tesoro said. “The minor changes made by the [board] are a confirmation of the conservative approach taken by my administration.”
The budget, if approved by the Town Council next month, will result in a tax increase of about 2.2%.
Tesoro said she was especially happy to see the board address the shortage of applicants for lifeguard positions at the town pools by raising the pay scale in an effort to draw more applicants.
“That’s how bipartisan collaboration is supposed to work,” she said.
The school system’s budget was particularly challenging because Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed state budget changes that may cost the town $1.2 million, Tesoro said. Specifically, Lamont’s administration has proposed a reduction to Trumbull’s Educational Cost Sharing allocation by $656,000 and imposed a new expense of $511,000 to help pay for teacher pensions.
“It was sound fiscal practice to incorporate this $1.2 million expense into the budget,” she said. In addition, the school board requested an increase in spending of $4.3 million, or 4.3%. Given the circumstances, Tesoro reduced the requested increase to about $2 million. Tesoro’s recommended $105,607,462 budget for the Board of Education also passed the Board of Finance with a bipartisan vote.
“Republican member Scott Zimov moved to add $1.2 million back to the school budget, but following a constructive dialogue, Republican Chairwoman Elaine Hammers and Republican member Steve Choi voted with Democratic members Lainie McHugh and Marty Isaac, defeating the proposal,” she said. “Had the [board] approved the amendment and added the $1.2 million funding to the school budget, the tax increase would have been nearly a full percentage point higher, nearly 3%. Such a tax increase would put an unfair burden on all our residents.”
The next step, Tesoro said, was working to convince the state to eliminate or reduce the $1.2 million state impact on town schools, she said.
“Should we succeed in doing so, we plan to apply these funds to both increase school funding and reduce the tax rate,” she said.