Commentary — Budget is ‘well-considered, thoughtful, realistic’
The budget season has concluded with the passage of 2018-19 town budget by the Town Council. Our sincere thanks to all town department heads, their respective staff, the Board of Finance, and the Finance Committee of the Town Council for their hard work and dedication throughout the long and arduous process leading to this point.
In a time of economic uncertainty at the state level and having inherited a significant funding hole and a decline in Trumbull's Grand List, First Selectman Tesoro and her staff put together a well-considered, thoughtful and realistic budget, addressing the needs of our town fairly and transparently, without fiscal gimmicks.
Mrs. Tesoro did not seek to implement the $1 million tipping fee, nor did she look to take money from the town's general fund to fill holes in the current year upon taking office. She erred on the side of caution by anticipating continued reductions in state funding of over $700,000 for the coming fiscal year. While no one hopes these reductions come to pass, experience tells us that when it comes to the state, it is better to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
In spite of it all, Mrs. Tesoro kept true to her promise to "spend smarter," delivering a focused and prioritized budget adequately providing for public safety, emergency services, Public Works, our libraries, roads, parks and recreation, and funding our town pensions at 100% of the Actuarial Recommended Contribution (ARC), while continuing the town's investment in our public schools. The first selectman also kept to her word reducing legal retainer fees and establishing priorities for reorganization of departments such as Parks and Recreation.
In accordance with the Town Charter, the first selectman's budget was reviewed by the Board of Finance prior to the vote by the Town Council. Testament to the transparency of the proposal, the Republican-controlled Board of Finance was unable to propose any substantial cuts, but instead proposed increases totaling $357,000. Although these increases were well-intended, most were deemed unnecessary at this time by the council. After adjustment by the council, a final budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year of $180,887,955 was adopted, representing an estimated 1.98% tax increase over the current year.
By no means is this budget perfect; there are many items still left on the town's "wish list", and sacrifices will be made across all departments. However, this budget meets the town's needs and reflects careful planning and judicious spending which will result in one of the lowest tax increases in the last 8 years. The process will conclude when the Board of Finance sets the mill rate sometime in May.