Town Council passes 2019-20 budget

After months of public hearings and reviews by two different elected boards, one Republican-controlled and the other Democratic, the budget that passed the Town Council differs only slightly from the one First Selectman Vicki Tesoro first submitted back in early March.

Mary Beth Thornton — Trumbull DTC photo

The $174.7 million budget that passed the council is about $139,000 less than Tesoro first proposed, a difference of less than eight-hundredths of one percent. The council approved the budget 11-8, mostly along party lines. Ted Chase, R-4th, split with the other council Republicans in voting “yes.” No Democrats voted against the budget.

“This is a good budget,” said Council Chairman Mary Beth Thornton, D-2nd District. “It started out good and after two boards went over it with a fine-tooth comb, it really didn’t change much at all.”

The council cut just over $202,000 from the proposal that was approved by the Board of Finance last month. The finance board had increased Tesoro’s proposal by about $63,000. The council cuts came mainly from the Police Department and Public Works.

The police reduction was about $11,000 which the council removed from the General Fund. The money, which was earmarked for one year’s payments on a new vehicle, instead will come from a Police Department special account, a move that Police Chief Michael Lombardo endorsed.

The bulk of the council cut, $151,000, came from the Public Works Department. The council cut $81,000 in funding for a deputy director. Tesoro has advocated combining some services between the Public Works Department and the school system’s Building Department. The council allocated $27,000 to fund a transition plan. The council also saved $40,000 by deferring the purchase of a new Freightliner plow truck. The council noted that the department has two spare trucks already.

The final 2019-20 budget represents an increase of just over 2.9 percent from the current year. The Board of Finance still has to set a mill rate for next year, but town officials expect taxes in town to increase by about 2.1 percent over the current year.

Thornton said she could not remember a budget ever changing so little from start to finish like it did this year.

“I think the changes that the two boards made, we’re talking hundredths of a percent, show that we really started out with a lean budget to begin with,” Thornton said. “The first selectman made a proposal, the finance board added a little, the council cut a little. That’s three levels of scrutiny.”