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On March 1, the Board of Finance completed its work on the 2018-19 school district and municipal budget requests, recommending the shifting of some funding from road repairs in order to boost capital spending requests for the Parks & Recreation Department and town IT Department, as well as increasing staffing at the Economic & Community Development office.
After motioning the board accept and recommend the spending plans as submitted by selectmen and the Board of Education, finance board Vice Chair Sandy Roussas then moved to amend the municipal road improvement line item by $200,000.
Ms Roussas explained that she did not necessarily want to add to the Board of Selectmen’s recommended bottom line, but felt by reducing the road improvement request, added funds could be applied elsewhere to potentially save taxpayers greater expense in the future.
Her initial thought was to provide an added $200,000 to the technology department, primarily to expedite key equipment upgrades and system improvements requested by department director Al Miles, as well as clearing funds for the Parks Department to acquire a new pickup truck that would be equipped for seasonal work around town, including winter plowing.
That motion failed, as did two other motions before finance board member Keith Alexander’s suggestion to reduce the road improvement line by $150,000 passed unanimously. After a failed motion by Ms Roussas to add the $150,000 to the technology department, Mr Alexander countered with a motion to transfer $100,000, which passed unanimously.
Mr Alexander followed up with a motion to transfer $65,000 to the Parks & Rec capital purchase line for the truck, which passed unanimously.
Moving on to the issue of increasing staff support for the Economic and Community Development office, finance board member Steve Hinden suggested an increase to that line by $40,000. That idea drew a reaction from Ms Roussas, who reminded her fellow board members that First Selectman Dan Rosenthal ran on a platform that included a commitment that he would become much more personally involved in soliciting and promoting economic development.
As a result, she said she would not support adding fund to that budget line this year.
Mr Alexander pointed out that Newtown needs more commercial development so it can rely less on residential taxes to fund town and school services.
That said, he suggested funding an additional $20,000.
“Economic Development is important,” he said, “give them a boost.”
Board member Roger Cyr agreed, saying Newtown’s tax base needs more than residential taxes.
“Dan is working on developing the town, and grant writing isn’t putting businesses into town,” he said, adding that he decided to run for office because he saw Mr Rosenthal’s potential for helping make that happen.
Finance board member Mark Boland then made a motion to add $20,000 to the Economic Development budget line for the purpose of adding more staff, which passed 5-1 with Ms Roussas voting No.
Mr Gaston then motioned to reduce winter maintenance hours by $5,000, and the winter maintenance line for salt purchases by $20,000. Both of those motions passed unanimously.
After recalculating based on his board’s earlier motions, Mr Gaston then motioned to recommend a 2018-19 municipal budget request of $41,087,967. The original selectmen’s request to the finance board was for $41,072,967.
That motion also passed unanimously, and Finance Director Robert Tait informed the board that their action would result in the Legislative Council receiving a proposed municipal budget request that represented a 2.5 percent increase over the current year.
Turning to the school district, Ms Roussas motioned to reduce that budget request by $75,000, suggesting reducing the Special Education line by $50,000 and the school Technology Department by $25,000.
After some discussion, the motion passed 4-2, with Mr Hinden and Mr Alexander voting No.
A subsequent motion to move a budget request of $75,979,231 to the council passed 5-1, with Mr Hinden voting No. The original Board of Education budget request arrived before the finance board at $76,054,231.
A final motion on a bottom line total 2018-19 town and school budget proposal in the amount of $117,067,198 — a 2.3 percent overall increase — passed 5-1 with Mr Hinden voting No.
Because of anticipated bad weather, the Legislative Council postponed its regular Wednesday meeting to Thursday, March 8. The council is scheduled to receive the finance board’s amended budget requests at that time.
Check this website and next week’s print edition for coverage as the council takes up this final step in the 2018-19 budget process, ahead of sending the proposals to residents for separate referendum votes on Tuesday, April 24.