Council — Original budget proposal was just right

The average Trumbull homeowner will likely receive a tax increase of just under 2% under the $169.7-million 2018-19 municipal budget approved by the Town Council. First Selectman Vicki Tesoro’s $169.6 proposal submitted in February was squarely in the Goldilocks zone, according to council Chairman Mary Beth Thornton. The Board of Finance will officially set the mill rate in May.

“First Selectman Vicki Tesoro’s budget was exactly right for Trumbull in 2018,” Thornton said before the vote. “This budget prioritizes the right spending while keeping the tax increase below 2%. This budget is fair and works for all residents.”

The council eliminated most of the $350,000 that the Board of Finance added to Tesoro’s proposal. That money would have gone into the town’s contingency fund and workers’ compensation account. The council kept the $30,000 that the finance board added to boost park security.

Tesoro called the budget “an initial installment” on a campaign promise to be fiscally prudent.

“Our town must remain affordable and competitive, and I am committed to keeping it so,” she said. “This budget makes a solid investment in public education so that we can maintain the outstanding quality of our public schools, which is also the biggest driver of our property values. We are also prioritizing public safety, emergency services, Public Works, our roads, libraries and parks.”

The council’s Democratic caucus released a statement after the meeting [read statement here] that also pointed out that the 2018-19 budget did not use money from the town’s general fund to close budget holes or mitigate potential tax hikes and also did not implement the $1-million tipping fee proposed on the town’s private trash haulers last 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,” the Democrats wrote. “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 eight years.”

Council Republicans had a different take [read statement here], pointing out that the budget failed to reduce executive positions or cut the first selectman’s salary. The council’s GOP members also moved to eliminate $20,000 from town Treasurer Anthony Musto’s budget earmarked for outside investment advisers, calling it a waste of funds.

“Our town treasurer currently manages other accounts without high-priced external investment advisers and he should be able to do so for all accounts,” said Republican spokesman Matt Caron. “While the Republican caucus requested reasonable budgeting by cutting such unnecessary expenses, the Democratic majority voted in a party-line vote to support this expense and waste further funds.”

Republicans also pointed to a series of party-line votes, and promised to be advocates for transparency and conservative fiscal practices.

“Our wish is to work with the first selectman to promote continued positive change, but we will not be silent when we believe the chosen path is wrong,” the members wrote. “We do not want a town divided by politics, but it is the job of the minority party to hold the majority accountable to the promises they made in seeking public office.”