Herbst budget includes 3.75% mill rate hike; adds security guards to schools
First Selectman Timothy Herbst this week presented a proposed $158.37-million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, representing a 3.75% mill rate increase and an overall $6.1-million increase over the current year’s budget.
Herbst slightly trimmed the Board of Education’s request, proposing a $95.55-million school budget, compared to the board’s requested $95.66 million. The town side of the budget increases by 2.79%, or $861,409.
Herbst’s proposal, which was sent to the Board of Finance, adds $635,745 to the Police Department budget. Part of the increase is for the hiring of security guards at the high school and Trumbull’s six elementary schools and for the addition of an early retirement incentive plan for Trumbull officers so the town police force can “build its bench” in recruiting new officers.
The town’s debt service, pensions and workers’ compensation are the other driving forces of the increase.
“What was challenging about this budget were the fixed costs, which were a significant driver — including an 11.13% increase in debt service, partly due to the like-new high school renovation and the sewer project,” Herbst said.
Pension contributions also increase by $467,000, for a total of $6.7 million.
“I believe we in Trumbull should lead by example and also set a better example than our leaders in Hartford,” Herbst wrote in his budget message. “We must honor our financial obligations and properly plan for the short term and the long term.”
On the revenue side, the town has seen some grand list growth — about 1.2%. The town also has a $17-million general fund balance, above the 10% threshold recommended by bond rating agencies.
The first selectman’s proposal represents a $2.79-million increase to education.
“Dr. Cialfi and our Board of Education are to be commended for delivering a budget that builds upon our educational success while understanding the constraints placed upon the Trumbull taxpayers in this economy,” Herbst said. “It was one of the lowest requested increases of any board of education in the last 20 years.”
Herbst said he would like a discussion surrounding 1% surplus money earmarked two years ago for full-day kindergarten. It should be earmarked for capital costs or one-time expenses, he said.
“That hasn’t been touched the last two years,” Herbst said of the money. “Inherent in the conversation is how they plan to use this money in a way that doesn’t create a funding cliff.”
Adding $200,000 for the hiring of seven security guards at Trumbull schools is an important addition to the budget, Herbst said. Part of his proposal is that retired Trumbull officers will receive the right of first refusal for these positions.
“It is my strong preference and recommendation that these positions be offered to soon-to-be retired Trumbull police officers first and then to retired law enforcement from other jurisdictions,” he said. “I believe it is of critical importance to have trained public safety professionals in our schools that will work in collaboration with the Trumbull Police Department.”
Herbst said this plan will allow for consistent security protocols in all the schools and better communication in case of emergencies.
“I’m really hoping we get bipartisan support on this,” Herbst said.
The Herbst administration is also recommending an early retirement plan for officers who have served the town for more than 30 years. Of the existing 72-member police force, 28 officers have served more than 25 years.
“I believe the time has come to begin the process of building our bench in recruiting new officers to join our force, which in turn will provide for career advancement for those that have served our town for many years with distinction.”
Recruiting new officers will also eventually lead to lower health care costs and less overtime, as newer officers will have less vacation time, Herbst said.
The budget will now be vetted by the Board of Finance and then move on to the Town Council. For a full Board of Finance budget hearing list, visit Trumbull-ct.gov.