Stratford Budget Presentations to Ordinance Committee

Note: Budget to be presented and voted on in the May 9th Town Council Meeting

Economic Development budget: $283 K, 2.8% increase; $300 Uniform Allowance

  • Karen Doyle raise
  • Planning and Zoning revenues projected to be the same. 6% increase
  • Veronica Cortes, Program Assistant at Town of Stratford , Health Department and Building, raise.

Library:   4% increase, asked for 4.11%; budget $3,472,506

  • This includes all salaries, retirement plans, benefits, health insurance costs.
  • , 1 unfunded liability for a retirement; 11% education and travel,

Materials, electronic equipment, strategic plan professionally, is paid for by library fundraisers and Library Board.

Note: 60% of all Stratford residents have a library card.

Registrar of Voters Office: 1.27% increase in budget.

Staffing of polling places; last year primaries and specials account was not touched funds still in place. This year they anticipate special elections and primaries.

Simon, requested registrars salary be reduced to part-time.  “We pay more than anyone in state (average 35K; all hands on deck, administrative assistant, Judy Scala, works with other departments would like to split salary (floater) ½ registrar.

Using last year’s election, 10K absentee, most of the handling and processing done by town clerk’s office. April-August slow, and could be easier.

Chris Pia: 20-30 hours a week for P/T, benefits? Asked for comp with other towns.

Chris Tymniak, Chief Administrative Officer, and Mayor Hoydick against going to P/T, future of office will be full-time no election issues part time, when you have to be prepared at all times. Administration assistant working with other departments strictly due to pandemic, she is an at will employee, organizing that would cost more than the $4,000 they would save by her being a floater.  Tymniak noted that the position is not a hobby

Laura Dancho:  Would a part time position compromise election integrity?

According to DiCillio going part-time would be 68 cents a minute per household savings.

Public Safety: Police Department, 105 officers

Expenses: salary increases, wages, training, surveillance cameras, psych and drug testing.

Reported crimes down;  Juneteenth holiday added this year, (as well as other holidays including graduation) costs 50K (Juneteenth was last holiday added).

Revenues: tickets, almost $300K, just raised cost of tickets to $25

Fire Department:  There was a Reduction of $221K from 2021 budget.

Suppression: biggest increase in maintenance, min 8% on purchases and maintenance (most of which is in-house); parts more expensive; have to do a major 5 year plan on equipment.

Prevention: smoke detection in every house in this town. Partnered with American Red Cross, who provided smoke detectors, early warning.  Since Aug. over 500 smoke detectors installed. Red Cross model for other communities now. Hearing impaired study, fire marshal did study and applied for grant got over $60K for bed shaking and light fire detectors, 261 units.

Also applied for a grant for training for below grade and steep grade rescues, got $28K.

Big purchase fire apparatus combo rescue and pumper truck, co-chief and deputy chief got information to Chief before December, which saved the town 66K, just for getting in on time then saved 32K by prepayment to purchase a pumper.  The price over was over $80K.  Will try to sell old truck.

Budget for administration salary increases was in line with union contract.

New buildings inspection – fire marshal, 3 deputies, secretary: designed a system to inspect family homes (where people sleep), condos, like Deerfield woods, all common areas auto, it is almost impossible to do individual units in an apartment building.

EMS

Larry Ciccarelli, Director of Public Safety for town delivered budget information, as it is part of his Public Safety position; Ciccarelli is also responsible for school safety; Registered EMTs were budgeted for a wage increase as of July 1st, from $17-19 hour to $25, which is market value.  Paramedics will go to $32 hour.  It was noted during the presentation that there is a statewide demand and need for EMTs and EMS staff.

Public Works  4.2% Increase; head count down by 1 ½

Tom Albert presented budget information, Raynae Serra, Director of Public Works was on Zoom: the 4.2% increase is for administration, employees, union employees and part time employees.

Deputy Director and Head of the Highway Division were going from salary to stipend;

Building maintenance: payroll, elevators, fire extinguishers, etc.

Engineering Dept.; office employees get a raise, everything else flat.

Highway: increase for salaries; equipment services (maintenance), gas and oil.

Town garage: budget increase for payroll; public works does not budget for snow removal, any savings from snow removal goes into capital budget.  Line items: town road aid, which comes from state and usually via FEMA.

Parks: increase due to contractual obligations; increase in O/T demand higher, employees work 7 days a week; increase in town events means more maintenance required; 2nd shift gets more work and more efficient, which saves on O/T.

Garbage/Recycling: costing more money to recycle and dispose of trash; tipping fees increased from $2mm to $2.8mm to recycle and trash removal, this was state wide, increased trash fee, number is still high, has not gone down from prepandemic, spring cleaning, 2020 garbage 25K tons, now 27.5K tons which includes bulk pick up, yard waste, and recycling.  Rising fees on rising tonnage.

Recycling fees are paired to the market price of recycled items, $41.69 a ton, 2021 it was $72 a ton. Market goes up and down.

Refuse, 2021 $64.69, now 65.69; yard waste is $42 a ton, cardboard and glass we get paid for. Have to separate cardboard or it goes into refuse.

Recreation increase was through minimum wage; summer help; supervisor has added more staff for every age group.

Razors Edge contracted, per diem for tree work town cannot get to, or a very large tree they cannot handle. Staffed appropriately to handle tree complaints.

Board of Education:  Chris Tymniak, Chief Administrative Officer – BOE represents the biggest variables in the town budget because of the Alliance program designation and the state educational bill funds which have not been decided.  What the Alliance grant will be and when will it be implemented is unknown. It could be $5.6-5.8mm hold in town revenue side.

Dr. Uyi E. Osunde, Superintendent of Schools, was not present due to a previous commitment and the late decision by the Town on the date to hold budget hearings.  Several request were made to schedule the meeting at another time, but the town is under a state mandate to complete our budge by May 12th.  Dr. Osunde is expected to give his presentation next week.

Pamela F. Mangini presented BOE budget. She is the Chief Operating Officer for the BOE, which held 5 budget workshops before submitting the request for a 4.57% increase over the current budget.

4.1 % of the budget is not salaries and benefits, which was shifted to The ARP ESSER (show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic.)

These new initiatives are not included in budget, as it would have been over the 4.57%

It is not realistic to operate at status quo.  There is presently 6,870 students in our school system, an increase of 152 students.

75% of the BOE budget is salaries and benefits.  Utilities and operational expenses- very little wiggle room.

5% of budget actually discretionary.  BOE took a harder look this year because of the new superintendent, as they looked efficiencies they looked at vendors contracts.

Health insurance: 2 year renewal, there was a 7% increase at Brown and Brown, they negotiated and it was decreased 6.1%.

Transportation:  ½ million increase due to special education transportation increase, 1.5% increase for next several years, no further savings.

Eliminated: $270K savings, 4 positions, all teachers, no administrators, over 1MM saved.  Administrators funded now by pandemic money.  BOE was encouraged by town to use that funding, which is problematic.

Chris Pia thought the town was correct in using ESSA funding.  Pia also agreed that it was dangerous rolling debt down the line.  What she did (Janet Robinson, former superintendent) did not work which is why we are Alliance now.

Alliance grant cannot be used to supplant general operating costs, for students supplement student enrichment.  Funds will be monitored closely and tested for outcomes.

Laura Dancho, They do not throw money at programs that do not work. No one is saying that education is not important. This would push the mill rate to over 40, we have to look at everything. Have to look at ESSA and Alliance. Were there any savings in prepays which is spread over schools.

There is savings, not sure at this point what they are.

Contractual amounts: general wage increase tied to teachers and custodial unions, all salaries, 2.5 and 3% without steps, steps would ramp that up; head count was with people in position at that time.

Pia: what we are doing is not working, are we going to continue to fund even though not working?  At end of day we will have to make changes to what we are doing. Facts not here at this time.

Kaitlyn Shake: what would happen if they didn’t get the increase. With the 2.5% the town wants what happens to special ed? 2020, $2.2mm surplus, 2021, $1.25 surplus, now we have a deficit, what happened? All of a sudden in red. When I hear that educators have to be creative, it raises red flags. This concerns me.  Are suspensions up or down? Do we have staff to address behavioral needs?

By law you cannot touch special ed, we have already removed placements, each student added increases special ed reserve fund.

We set a budget like a grocery list, you have a budget and after shopping, met the budget, and then the surplus funds go back to the town. BOE has given back in last 5 years 6.5%; $1.1mm in 2020, money was to be set aside for use in next budget.

In the last 5 years an average of 6.5% given to town; almost $1.5 million in fiscal year 2021, Sodexo money was taken from this (a 10 year deficient now paid in full, and we are now in black); $712,650, in 2020; 2019, no money; 2018, $1.6mm given to town, cannot explain what happened to that money.

Budget year will end in red: $750K or at end 1/2mm deficient, $2.4mm deficient in special ed.

Salary freezes and spending freezes done in October. Never expected these savings to help budget, sounded alarm giving town to adjust their budget to our deficit.

Jim Conner: there are hidden costs to public works.  As for the 40 mill rate, I’ve done 11 budgets, as a real estate agent I know that you do not go over 40 mills, if we give the 4.75% increase we then have to take it out of the town budget. 10 people will say give increase, 10 people, no more taxes.

(Public Works: Estimate 60K with O/T of over 90K for BOE; EDOO1, over $15mm in kind services in 2021 town budget which included debt services and interest, professional technical services, salaries, $7mm, what the town pays the BOE that is not in BOE budget.)

Bill O’Brien: What are clinical costs, 2.8mm, cost of students, and I am hearing that there is a lack of respect and discipline in schools, it has to be said.

Clinical costs relates to special ed students, it is a required service.

Lesette Franceshi: How are suspensions handled, what does that look like?

Lot of time and energy for emotional supports for students; Superintendent can address better. Suspensions have to be reported to state.

Laura Dancho: Do not want to see STEM and art reduced in schools.

Chris Tymniak: Regarding the Alliance funding, the town has been working with Superintendent. The distressed community funding gave lump sum payments.  Town has $4.6mm hole because they expected $4.6mm in distressed communities funding, town got $100,000.

We do not know how much, or when, we get Alliance money, once we know we can give better numbers.  Every year is a jigsaw puzzle, what is important is when the state requires town to have budget in place.  Every budget a guess. We do want to fund education, we have a reserve fund, and we don’t want BOE to be in deficit.  Alliance funds unknown, commissioner of education been questioned.  Big thing is that we have been put into program, the program is outdated.  In 2012 30 towns were marked for the Alliance, 10 years later add Stratford and they had a look back to 2012.  We are working with the legislature to make sure Stratford is not penalized with $10mm, we want to start flat like the other towns.  What constitutes what works and what does not? All of these grants create guidelines the intent is to better education for students in Stratford. New program has to be submitted to State Education Board.  Budget has to be settled by May 12th

Dancho: what do we say when residents want to know why we are not fully funding BOE?

Tymniak: After budget printed, we were notified we were in Alliance, but now we have to figure out what grants with revenue changes will be given to us.

Shake: compare town increase to BOE increase. What was the number?

49.4% BOE budget, town side 50.6%, minus .2 for EMS assessment. There was a 4.25% increase in town operating expenses being more than BOE is all our debt, all of those variables, bonding for high school, pensions, etc.  Less revenue, not putting distressed communities investment income in budget, changes overall would not look like town getting more than BOE

BOE at 2.5% meeting contractual obligations.

Alliance money will go direct to BOE.

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