Trumbull budget passes finance board's review

Board of Finance Chairwoman Elaine Hammers couldn't wait any longer for the town and the Trumbull Educators Association to resolve their ongoing negotiations about a proposed switch to the state’s Partnership 2.0 insurance plan.

That's why she and the rest of the board pushed through a $174.7-million budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year Monday night, approving $233,499 worth of increases and passing along the dilemma to the Trumbull Town Council.

"We're still behind the eight ball because we don't have answers with the medical savings," Hammers told The Times Tuesday morning.

"It's a big swing on the education side and they have to make up for that shortfall somehow if the negotiations aren't settled," she added. "If the change in health care providers does go through, the council can make some cuts to what we added last night and they can restore some of the positions we cut."

Hammers said that the Trumbull Board of Education is looking at a shortfall anywhere between $1 million to $1.4 million, and that the changes would have to be made on their side of the budget — not by the Board of Finance or Town Council.

"They would have to make those changes, whether it be people or programs," she explained. "What they do with their money is up to them."

For now, the education budget remains at the proposed $108.7 million with two accounts being moved back to the Board of Education side to satisfy the teachers' pending health insurance plan.

"We took out of two accounts — fringe medical and the medical insurance reserve — and put them back where they were," she said. "If a resolution with the TEA is reached, the council can restore it; however, if the budget sits, then its becomes the Board of Education's problem to deal with the shortfall."

Hammers supported the health care provider switch saying the state plan is "equally good" to what the teachers have currently.

"We're arguing over semantics," she said. "It's a good plan that costs the employees less because they're sharing the premiums with us and saving right along with us.

"I hope they see that," she added.

Police salaries 

Besides the education budget, the biggest line item is police salaries, which are $6.67 million.

Looking over those expenses, Hammers and the rest of the Board of Finance saw a ripe place in the Trumbull budget to save some money.

That's why they removed $161,000 from police salaries, but did so without removing any positions, according to Hammers.

The board also added $250,000 to the town's contingency account in case there is health care problem with the police.

"They have two vacancies at the lieutenant position, and they take a long time to fill — around 18 months," she said. "With their hiring process being excruciatingly slow, we thought it was best to have two less lieutenant's positions in this year's budget."

"We did approve a third school resource officer so we have two less lieutenants at the moment and three additional officers," she added. "There were no layoffs or cuts to the department."

Other issues

The meeting went a surprisingly short two hours, Hammers said, with most items passing 6-0. Democratic member Tom Kelly was absent from the meeting dealing with personal matters.

Both the Board of Education's bargaining units and the police salaries items were passed 4-2, while similar votes shot down proposals for a $250,000 cut to town's Public Works Department to change its leaf pickup program and a $30,000 cut to health district's budget.

The board decided that if the TEA elects to go back to their current health plan, then the education board must find the $1.4 million in cuts elsewhere in their budget.

"We tried to hold it as close as we possibly could to the first selectman's proposed budget," Hammers said. "The people of Trumbull are still getting a tax decrease — a minimal tax decrease, but I think in this economy people will still be pretty happy about it."

Additional reporting done by Rick Bolton.