Thursday, April 25, 2024

Town Council Meeting


Monday, March 11th

By Barbara Heimlich

Following the Public Forum the Town Council Chairman Carl Glad gaveled in their regularly scheduled meeting.  Of importance was Mayor Laura Hoydick announcing that she was submitting an operating budget of $260 million for fiscal year 2025, which she claims represents a 2.21% increase over the current year, but won’t increase taxes or the mill rate.

“Through the use of “other revenue sources,” it will not increase taxes nor the 40.20 mill rate and the vehicle mill rate of 32.46 (which is capped by state statute at this rate).

“When I took office in late 2017, there was an incredible need for tax relief for our residents.  This obligation to our taxpayers continues, year after year, and my administration was able to reduce taxes for the first five years, and keep the increase last year to a minimum while addressing the Town’s financial obligations due to the economic climate we felt and continue to feel today.

“This proposed budget not only supports our Town departments but also prioritizes the efficient delivery of services to our residents, with an emphasis on one of the greatest impacts to our community: the advancement of our schools and students.”

“Much of the direction and growth of our Town depends on the success of our schools, and we must provide our students with the building blocks to forge bright futures. As a graduate and a mother of graduates of Stratford Public Schools, as a former Board of Education member and chair, and as someone who comes from a family of dedicated educators, I personally understand the imperative need to support our students, teachers, and staff. The proposed Town budget for the 2025 Fiscal Year fully funds the operating budget requested by the Stratford Board of Education and SPS Administration.”

Bottom of Form

Hoydick’s proposed budget includes $129,002,725 for Stratford Public Schools, which is slightly higher than the school board’s request of $128,993,196.  The BOE recently approved a budget by a 4-3 vote, along party lines, that represented a 3.27% increase.  The BOE approved $4 million increase was less than half of the more than $8 million increase acting Superintendent of Schools Heather Borges originally proposed.

Hoydick said her proposed allocation for schools doesn’t include Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed additional Education Cost Sharing grant ($3.06 million) that will pass through the town and be sent to the school district.

Hoydick highlighted that the budget addresses the “district’s financial obligation to fill the void of ESSER grant funding (used by the previous administration to fund $2,500,000 of regular staff positions) and that she is confident it will provide the necessary resources, infrastructure, and support to those who work tirelessly to improve the academic achievement and social emotional well-being of our students,” according to a news release.

“This proposed budget is a commitment by the Town to moving our students, our schools, and our community forward,” Hoydick said. “It has been refreshing to collaboratively work with the school administration on the condition and improvement of Stratford Public Schools. When serving as a member of the Board of Education, we worked to have a library media specialist and building based specialists in each school.

I do not want to eliminate these positions and would rather work out the budgeting and funding details to allow them to remain employed by the Stratford Public Schools. We will continue to work through May as we fine-tune the request for funding for our school district. I look forward to continuing to work with the school administration, Board of Education, and the Town Council to provide the necessary funding to all town departments, and I am confident that this proposed budget represents a fiscally sound path for Stratford.”

The Town Council moved both ordinances — the ordinance to adopt the annual operating budget for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2024, and ending June 30, 2025, as well as the ordinance levying the tax rate – to be referred to the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing. Budget workshops are set to begin within the coming weeks.

Also announced by the Mayor:

  • Under Economic Development the Army Engine Plant is scheduled hopefully for a closing or conveyance in April,  and we’re meeting with them at the end of March in preparation for that conveyance.
  • The planning and zoning office is working with SLR Consulting to update Zoning regulations.
  • The next engagement session for the Zoning Regulations update will be a Roundtable Workshop in the spring of 2024, the date to be announced.
  • The Performing Arts Center property (Shakespeare development) will be hosting a public Outreach session either at the end of March or the beginning of April.
  • The proposed Town of Stratford budget will be posted online.
  • The president of Sikorsky has called to talk about the status of employment and contracts, and what they’re working on now, the Blackhawk Resurgence, but I have not spoken to our Representatives or our Senators about this.

Councilwoman Shake posed a question regarding the BOE budget:

“This year for the Board of Ed there’s a line that’s described as a non-APS funds from balance of unspent Town funds for fiscal year 2024, and the amount for that is $2 million.  So my question to you, or whomever can answer the question, are these the surplus funds from the previous year that went back to the general fund that are now being allocated over towards the Board of Ed?

Hoydick: Yes those are the increases because this was an issue last year.

Councilwoman Shake:  The percentage increase that’s listed on this page for the board is a 4.79% however with the ECS funding and the non-APS funds is that counted as part of the town’s operational budget that’s being allocated towards the Board of Ed or in past practice because in the beginning of our budget book it’s delineated as part of the state funds that are coming in.  So I’m just trying to figure out what the actual percentage is of the contribution from our town operating budget towards the board of education is it a 4.79% or is it Board of Education this year proposed by by you and your administration of 127 million roughly versus last year of $124 million which is my math is not perfect. I apologize about 1.1% or somewhere around there.

Hoydick: So that’s why we have the budget workshops.  So the request from the Board of Education was 3.27% which we funded slightly more than that.  The ECS money from the state is $2,381 that’s added here plus the $2 million of non-lasting funds and it all comes out to 4.79%. So last year when we had our budget workshops and we got our actual budget books from you the line item just read Board of Education underneath that was one additional line item Alliance District funding direct to Board of Ed.

Councilwoman Shake:  So I can’t wait to get to the budget workshops, but I’m sure in fully walking through,  I guess my request, I’ll make it public now, is in the non-APS funds that are being sent over towards the Board of Ed where from the past fiscal year exactly where those funds are coming from,  are they from ECS? are they from the direct operational surplus? that’s my request just so that there’s that level of transparency that I think many people are asking for.

Hoydick: That’s why the budget workshops are so critical so you can go into these in detail and not here but I will tell you that the $2 million of non-APS funds came from the surplus of the Board of Education from last fiscal year, the ECS money, also coined as Alliance now, but it’s Let There is no mistake it is the ECS that’s education cost sharing that is allotted to the town and that money is that from the previous two years plus the 360 million.


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