Budget drama: TYA voted back in by finance board
The Trumbull Youth Association theater program is back in the town’s proposed budget for next year, after a Board of Finance vote Tuesday night.
In the overall budget vote, the Board of Finance added about $119,000 to First Selectman Tim Herbst’s $160.3 million proposal, making the total increase 2.24% over the current year. The final budget passed 4-2.
Herbst’s education budget proposal, which eliminates about $573,000 from the Board of Education’s request, was left intact.
The budget also gives the first selectman, town treasurer and town clerk a 5% wage increase, which is less than initially requested. In other areas of the budget the finance board voted to add back a senior citizen bus driver, added a police vehicle and voted to pay for a GPS system for town vehicles, for efficiency reasons.
“The BOF represented the taxpayers very well during the vote last evening,” Republican Vice Chair Paul Lavoie said. “We passed a budget that adequately funds the services and programs we’ve come to expect from our great town, funded our pension plans at the ARC and kept the tax burden to our citizens at a reasonable level. In addition, we restored the beloved TYA program and strengthened it by making it part of our upgraded Parks and Recreation Department.”
Democrats Tom Kelly and Lainie McHugh voted against the final budget, since their efforts to add back money to the education budget, and remove certain new positions like an executive assistant for the director of labor relations, failed. Democrat Andy Palo was out with the flu, and unaffiliated alternate Vincent DeGennaro filled in for the vote.
“The budget that the first selectman presented, we Democrats on the board believe does not represent the values of Trumbull,” Kelly said. "But this is how democracy works."
TYA and Recreation
Adding back $61,000 for TYA became a hot topic this budget season. Herbst zeroed out the budget, citing revenues of the program and leading to backlash from supporters.
Lavoie and Kelly agree that public outcry and participation at finance hearings certainly helped get the group’s message across. Adding TYA back into the budget was unanimously supported by the board.
“I have been a supporter of TYA since coming on the Board of Finance,” Lavoie said. “One hundred people at a public meeting and 40 speakers will certainly have influence.”
TYA, which used to be under the Youth Commission budget, is now in the Recreation budget, which concerned Democrats on the board, who worried that was creating a gray area.
Herbst’s budget reorganizes the Parks and Recreation Department, adding in a new recreation director. Democrats were against this new position, but their motion to remove it failed.
When it came time to vote for the overall Parks and Recreation budget, it failed 3-3, which also meant that adding back TYA failed, according to Lavoie. When Chairman Elaine Hammers explained that voting the budget down would mean TYA didn’t get back in, Democrats called for a re-vote and it passed.
Kelly and McHugh tried to add back to the education budget, first making a motion to add back in the full amount reduced by Herbst. When that failed, Democrats tried adding back $420,000 and later $200,000. All the motions failed.
“We cut education to the point that the superintendent of schools said it would have a direct impact on students and impair programs and staff that were already in the budget,” Kelly said.
Republicans on the board disagreed.
“I felt the education budget was adequately funded from the first selectman’s budget,” Lavoie said Wednesday. “Year after year the Board of Education usually ends up with a budget surplus, no matter what budget we give them. I praise the Board of Education for that and we think the funding offered by the first selectman would provide for a quality education budget.”
The proposed budget will now be vetted by the Town Council Finance Committee. The committee begins its public hearings on the budget March 9. See a full meeting list at Trumbull-ct.gov.