Council approves 2017-18 budget

Trumbull’s 2017-18 budget proposal received approval from the Town Council Tuesday, with a few minor changes. All told, the council approved a package of $169.2 million in general fund allocations. This represents an increase of about 3.4% from the current $163.6 million budget.

The budget passed with a minimum of partisan wrangling, as both sides seemed resigned to making the best of a bad situation, said Chairman Carl Massaro (R).

“Everybody was operating under the prospect of the state impact on our budget,” Massaro said. “In that context, everybody was committed to doing what was best for the town.”

The council trimmed about $350,000 from the budget approved by the Board of Finance, with the bulk of that coming from the elimination of a series of planned vehicle purchases and cutting funds for the planned move of the Board of Education from the Long Hill Administrative Building to new offices in Town Center.

“We budget to replace vehicles on a rotating five-year schedule,” Massaro said. “We had planned to purchase a van for animal control, and some other vehicles that the departments indicated they could make-do with for another year.”

Despite cutting $300,000 in relocation expenses, the council managed to give the schools a bit of an increase from what the finance board approved, adding $752,000 in program expenses to the $98.1 million finance board package. The Board of Education had initially requested $102.3 million, a figure First Selectman Tim Hersbt reduced to $101.7 million. The council addition means the school system will operate with essentially the same funding as it has this year.

The school budget, the largest single item in the budget, got more scrutiny than usual this year as Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed a series of education cuts and teacher pension transfers that could add more than $6 million in expenses to Trumbull’s school system. Massaro said the proposals forced towns to scramble to create plans for financial hit that may never come. Towns like Trumbull especially are put in a bind since the town must finalize its budget for next year before finding out how much, if at all, the state will cut funding.

“Malloy’s proposals got a lot of talk in committees and caucus,” Massaro said. “The finance board tried to create a large enough contingency fund to pay the bill, or cover the cost, of any potential lost education dollars.”

There does not seem to be any correct answer to planning for possible state cuts, Massaro said. Some towns are budgeting as if the proposals will come to fruition, a prospect that seems decreasingly likely. Others, like Trumbull and North Haven, have tried to plan for the worst case scenario.

“We will see what evolves,” Massaro said. “Should the best case happen, then we’ll have a contingency fund to distribute.”