Letter — Council Democrats explain budget role

To the editor:
It is the Town Council’s job to pass a balanced budget that prioritizes education and public safety, as well as supports our seniors, parks, and town-wide services — all while keeping an eye toward the financial impact on taxpayers.
The budget process begins with the school building administrators and staff, who meet with the superintendent to discuss anticipated needs. The budget is presented to the Board of Education who reviews, edits, and votes on a final Board of Education budget (BoE Budget). Once finalized, only the Board of Education has the authority to change individual line items to the BoE Budget, including the funding of teaching positions and programs.
The BoE Budget becomes a part of the entire First Selectman’s proposed town budget (the Town Budget) and is represented as a single line item. The first selectman may change the total allocation, but only the Board of Education may change how its funds are distributed.
This year, the state has proposed reducing Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funding to Trumbull and requiring that the town contribute a portion of the cost of teacher pensions, resulting in a $1.2 million funding gap. Those changes will have a significant impact on the town’s funding this year and in years to come. The Board of Education asked for an increase of 4.3 percent or $4.4m over this year. In light of all the threats to funding from the state, the First Selectman approved a total increase of 2 percent or $2 million, and in doing so, ensured a continued investment in our students and top-rated schools.
The First Selectman presented her recommended Town Budget to the Board of Finance in March, after which, it has the power to: 1. Recommend the Town Budget as proposed by the First Selectman; 2. Increase or decrease line items; or 3. Add items not in the Town Budget. The Board of Finance accepted the First Selectman’s proposed 2 percent increase to the Board of Education.
On April 15, the Town Council received the revised Town Budget from the Board of Finance. The Town Council has the power to change the recommended budget in two ways: (1) by reducing any line item with a simple majority vote or (2) adding funding with a 2/3 majority vote – but it can only add funding to the amount set by the First Selectman. Only the Board of Education has the authority to change individual line items in the proposed BoE Budget, including teaching positions and programs.
The Finance Committee of the Town Council held a public hearing on April 27, which was attended by residents and teachers, who spoke in support of our education system and funding for teaching positions that directly impact our children. We are grateful to each of them for taking time on a Saturday morning to engage in the budget process, and as always, for their dedication to Trumbull’s students. The Town Council will vote on the budget on Thursday, May 9.
Editor’s Note — This letter was received from Ashley Gaudiano (D-4th District) and co-signed by the entire Democratic Town Council caucus.
Dawn Cantafio, 1st District
Bill Mecca, 1st
Mary Beth Thornton, 2nd
Keith Klain, 2nd
Kevin Shively, 2nd
Thomas Whitmoyer, 2nd
Jason Marsh, 3rd
Eric Paulson, 3rd
Bruce Elstein, 4th
Ashley Gaudiano, 4th
Lisa Valenti, 4th