Finance committee makes small changes to proposed budget

The Town Council’s Finance Committee is recommending a budget for the next fiscal year that is just $278 less than the one approved by the Board of Finance earlier this month.

On Tuesday night, the Finance Committee made only small adjustments to a $160.5-million budget for the 2014-15 year. The budget represents a 2.24% increase over the current year. The committee’s recommendation will go to the full Town Council April 9 for a final budget vote.

The committee kept intact changes the Board of Finance made to the first selectman’s recommended budget, including adding back the Trumbull Youth Association to the budget. Supporters of the summer theater program have come out to public hearings and have written letters to officials about the importance of funding the program through the budget. First Selectman Tim Herbst removed it, saying that the program’s revenues could cover expenses.

The recommended budget also reduces the Board of Education’s initial request by $573,000, as proposed by Herbst.

The approved changes made Tuesday to the budget included adding back $23,136 for an additional staff person for the Planning and Zoning department, a position that had been previously removed. It also eliminates $23,394 in overtime from the Emergency Management department.

District 2 Republican Cindy Penkoff proposed both changes. Penkoff said that Director of Planning and Development Jamie Bratt had an additional person in her department but was asked to share that person with another department that needed an extra set of hands. Penkoff said the planning director was under the impression that was temporary and needed that staff member back.

As far as removing an overtime budget from Emergency Management, Penkoff said the police department no longer needed overtime in that area since the emergency management position became salaried.

District 3 Democrat Vicki Tesoro proposed removing a $46,000 executive assistant position in the Human Resources department, but her motion failed.

“We were told less than a year ago by the first selectman that the position was no longer needed,” Tesoro said.

Penkoff said she initially agreed with Tesoro but has since been convinced otherwise.

“Originally, I was in the same boat as you,” Penkoff said.

Penkoff argued that the director of labor relations shouldn’t have valuable time taken up with duties that should be handled by a trained assistant.

Other areas of the budget that will change July 1, if approved by the entire Town Council, include the town’s new health department, formed since the council voted to leave the Trumbull Monroe Health District. The budget also reorganizes the Parks and Recreation department, adding in a new director of parks and recreation.

Tesoro, fellow Democrat Mary Beth Thornton and District 2 Republican Tony Scinto abstained from voting on the overall recreation budget.

Some have questioned the need to add a new $91,000 position to that department. Herbst has defended the proposal, saying the reorganization will help the department bring in more money through programming.

When it came time to vote on the overall $160.5-million budget, the committee’s three Republicans voted in favor and Tesoro and Thornton abstained.

The Town Council is scheduled to vote on the budget Thursday, April 9, at 8 p.m. in Town Hall.