Town Council Approves Budget

Mill Rate decreased by 0.01%

Schools Hot Topic

Special meeting on Town operating budget opened with an amendment to decrease the budget by $100,396,52, which was approved by all of the Republican’s on the Town Council. (Chris Pia, Ken Poisson, Jean Marie Sutton, Jim Connor, Bill O’Brien, Laura Dancho)

This reduction then brings our Mill rate to 39.46, a decrease from the original proposed mill rate of 39.47 (we now save .01%) Editor’s Note: on a property tax of $11,000 would save approximately $3.00.

Annual operating budget now: $248,995,500

Revenues

Board of Education:

State Educational Cost Sharing: funding, decreased over $1mm, budget now $25,147,165.

Stratford Alliance direct pay of $1,127,377 MM, included in town side on Educational Cost Sharing revenue, the town had to reduce that amount as Distressed Community Fund plus Alliance vs proposed budget, the BOE now gets more money,
Rosa DeLauro secured a Title 1 grant of $100K to Stratford.

Chris Timiak said that he thinks more money will come in for special education grants. He claims the state is sitting on a lot of money as they try to spend down money, “a lot on the table which I hope will be coming to Stratford.”

Property taxes: $438,571

State of CT Motor Vehicle: increase over $2,986,411

Other revenues
Sale of land: $450K

Premium on bond sales: over 35,609,812 ($900K bond premium, increases amount for next year’s bonds, amount was put into this year’s budget, interest on the $15.6MM of approved capital projects.

Town Clerk Conveyance Taxes Fee: increase $1,491,02

Expendures

Mayor’s salary: increase $12,945, (Mayor raise set by town council previously), plus staff salary increases, $318KK

Town Clerk’s Office: increase $377,103, Town clerk P/T, O

Contingency: $199,304

Debt Retirement: increase $6,655,202

Benefits (health insurance, etc.): $13,319,193

IT (includes payroll): $20,993,16,

Health Department: $21,168,818

Passed 7 to 3

The following suggested budget amounts were disputed by Councilman Greg Cann (D) Fifth District who proposed the following amendments:

Finance purchasing department reduction of p/t salary $24,375, administration has spoken about floating administration needs as needed, this is a sharing of in-kind personal, do resources exist to meet need if projects increase? Keep in budget.

Failed 4-6

Tax collector salaries 30% increase in previous years, another increase this year, outside services are used for processing, outsourcing, and software in budget to increase efficiency Should be corresponding savings and have a right size of salaries for this department?

Dancho, Budget decreased last year. Amount reduced.

Cann, budgets have gone from $38-$63-$87-$120, budget amount reduced to $115 this year, which seems to have room for a reduction.
Failed 4-6

Health Department; a blight officer can be invaluable for families that need to improve their property, but the Town now has 4 departments that work to eliminate blight. The town is in a deficient and we need $5.7MM to balance this budget, we should be looking at short time areas to utilize taxpayer savings.

Pia spoke forcibly about the need, pointed out a that the blight officer is a revenue position.

Cann compared other towns to Stratford’s blight officer salary.

Conner: Comparing Stratford to other towns is comparing apples and oranges. It is the mayor’s job to manage the town, not the town council.

Cann,, I’m just trying to invest in best practices. I know the town is not the same, but can we learn from other towns? Police and Health Department already go out to look at blighted properties; suggested health department could eliminate blight officer.

Connor, this would be revenue neutral.

Cann, my intention is to make BOE whole, Conner suggested we can give advice, this is advice, this is not ingenious to the person in office, but to learn better.
Failed 4-6

Amend Registrar of Voters: other municipalities do not have 3 people working full time, 12 months of the year. It is just not done. Are we in the best position to fund 3 full time employees all year? If we need more money for elections we can fund it.

Pia: 3 out of 4 amendments you have suggested are targeting individuals for political purposes and I do not appreciate that, I’ll tell you that right now.

Cann: Is the chair suggesting personal animosity? We are not always going to get money, right now we are balancing the budget with over $4mm from the state $5.7 from the feds. If you want to protect individuals that’s ok, but I’m just looking at there being an alternate and better way to do things, in the state and in other states, I just think that if no one else has need for 3 positons, why do we? I’m just suggesting another way.

Connors: this is has been an ongoing discussion for years, it is not a new suggestion, and we eliminated 1 person in last fiscal year no one talks about that! Overstaffed, incompetent, what is the singular issue that is a national speech, fraud! The only place we can defend freedom, Democrats whine that Trump was elected, Republican’s whine that the election was stolen. The one place we can increase safety, voting safety, you said yourself, if revenue neutral why bother. BOE is not going to get any more money, not going to matter. If you think Pia is suggesting it’s personal, it can’t be seen as anything but, this is serious stuff, democracy and freedom, you claim can be done better, general statements everybody does it better, if you want to say , some have different ways of staffing, they don’t always do it better. We have primaries, other towns throw that cost into the mayor’s budget, we are more transparent with a budget, if you want to say this to look good for FB, that’s OK.

Cann: We are the only municipality this size to have 50K residents, 20K voters, and 3 F/T positions. I don’t know if it will improve quality of office, quality of elections. This suggestion is based on comparative analysis and best practices, standard repetitive work, anytime a change is suggested it meets with resistance.

Sutton: Have you ever performed any of these positions in registrar’s office; (Cann: yes) I don’t believe you have with right to put democracy on the line.

Cann: Tasks for the registrar’s office outlined by the secretary of state, 99% clerical in nature.

Failed 4-6

Office of Mayor: minus $40K

Failed 4-6

Human Resources: salary, minus $15K

Failed 4-6

Payroll Town Attorney: salary item minus $5K

Failed 4-6

CAO (Chief Administrative Officer): salary, minus $18K

Failed 4-6

Cann: for a point of clarification, the numbers, salary decreases for at will employees, I know that they have not had a salary increase and are in for the increase in salaries in this years budget. They do deserve fair and equitable salaries, but we are relying on $5MM for state, $6MM from feds, is this the right time to increase salaries?

Connors: I’ve had 30 years in HR (human resources), and this is the worst hiring situation ever; people 23 years old are starting at $30 hr., if we are not competitive you are talking about stability, wanting not only voting to reduce salary, but voting to remove salaries from a morale standpoint I’m voting no.

Shake: in response to Connor, the effort to try and reduce mayoral appointees salary increases is an effort from this side of the aisle is a reflection to what is happening to the BOE budget. They have a similar problem of not being able to hire, yet have to maintain their staff, this is not personal or how good of a job one department is over another, it’s about how to find a better way to fund priorities.

Connors: not being able to hire teachers? They are unionized. I just think we need to keep stability.

Failed 4-6

BOE increase funding by $323KK

Connor: Pam (Pamela F. Mangini, Chief Operating Officer for the BOE) said that the BOE came in 4 years in a row with excess amount after town had cut budget, a surplus, that was in a 2% variance, we are in that window, which does not give you the right to threaten to fire teachers and close schools. They said they were hiring temps, which do not have benefits, it’s not going to happen, there is not going to be lay-offs, not the town council and mayors budget need to throw in more money, gone from $2MM to $600K shortage from BOE.

Editor’s Note: Any surplus from the BOE budget by law has to be turned over to the Town of Stratford. According to Mangini, in the last 5 years an average of 6.5% was 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.

Shake; in an effort allocate more funding of 323K offered as amendment, thank you Jim Connor for bringing up organizations putting together budgets that are within the 2%, but because the BOE is not a negative, because it shows how they are managing their budget as always.

Dancho: if they were to get this $323, 937K it would not be revenue neutral, but would increase the mill rate, which we do not want to do. Part of our responsibility to not over tax our residents.
Shake: the previous amendments with reduction of salaries on non-union employees would cover the $323,937, it adds up to same amount.

Dancho; those amendments were voted down, so it would not be revenue neutral.

Closing Comments from Councilmen and Councilwomen on Conclusion of Budget:
Shake: positives, 3rd time doing budget, first time to have budget workshops where we have asked questions and had some answers given to us. First budget when we have arrived at a time when all amendments offered from both sides of the isle were discussed. Hope we can do this again to not waste time. Every single email we have all gotten from residents have supported fully funding the BOE. Have heard a lot of comments from other town employees about fearmongering, we have heard from speakers at the last Town Council meeting, they don’t want to close a school, not the decision that has to be made, like Tymniak said, if there is additional funding we learn to work better together as it is not working, and we are able to better fund.

Franceshi: Just find a better way to fund BOE. We don’t know who makes the decisions, but the BOE is very important, we don’t know where all the money goes and grants come from, we get, but we have to do right by children, they are our future.

Rice: when we think of taxpayers and services, great schools should always be the aim and the goal it creates. It insures a future for our children and our wellbeing, revenues and businesses.

Cann: I’m not a doctor, financial professional, nurse, radiologist, actuary, lawyer, but I spend all day working with those individuals; 40 years of business consulting I’ve been in many organizations and looked at so many tasks that have to be done, Through common sense and experience I can advise them on improving efficiency and quality for nearly every organization. We can plan for the future, if we couldn’t plan for the future we would not do any kind of a budget, and we can learn from others, and it would be negligent not be cognizant of efficiencies, like tax office, new software for budget efficiency. Thank you, I did not mean to be confrontational, but I am passionate.

Poisson: no comment, my vote will speak for myself.

Sutton: thanked all who helped her understand the process to go through each item line to line. I found this eye opening, as a taxpayer, single mother, PTA President. I have complete faith in all elected officials including the 7 BOE members, I do not appreciate the threat to close schools, this did not come from this side of the table, not our authority, not the superintendents, but the Board of Education. I appreciate the advocacy for students In town.

Connor: to Ms Shake, after 11 years budgets I was surprised that all 4 of you voted against giving money in the budget for the South end. There is a problem in this world where you voted no to the South end, you pulled that stunt on Monday, don’t know if you did it because you are new and not paying attention.

O’Brien: I’m the oldest one on this council, I love this town despite a lot negativity. I wish Greg could have analyzed the costs of administration of the BOE, but we don’t have the right. Public works, do their jobs very well, look at the roads compared to other towns, Shelton, Trumbull, Milford. Look at the blight compared to other towns. We have great, diverse and caring citizens, 9 museums that will be tourist attractions, Two Roads — many positives.

Dancho: I chaired the budget workshops and want to thank all who participated; this budget is a fluid budget that is not so static that it cannot be moved, things can change, many variables as year progresses; one of main goals is to lower mill rate, make it more affordable, no one wants of will let BOE fail, I love police, fire, public works, proud that we were able to lower mill rate for 5th time.

Pia: thank you to everybody, councilors working on first one, department heads, I appreciate everything you do. One thing I will take away with me as I leave here is how a small group of people keep the town running seamlessly. This is a good budget, mill rate flat, but to the BOE, this one was disheartening, to be honest, not because of true money but the rhetoric and fearmongering that people put out there. I don’t believe the budget was to send threatening emails and scare kids is really wrong, and to threaten to close schools with an $800K difference, is not right. For those of you here is the true facts, bottom line, departments come in with the true funding, Alliance $1.1 million, Rosa, $145K , health care down $375K, these new numbers were not in the original BOE budget, which has now drastically shrunk to a few hundred thousand. I want to thank Bedell, Henricks, and Kennedy, who I worked with and came in with new numbers that will not layoff 1 teacher or close 1 school.

Vote on Budged: Passed 6-4

State change to adopted car tax rate, for mill rate of car tax on July1st — tax levied 32.46 mills.

Passed 10-0

What is the mill rate for Stratford CT? 39.46

Special Taxing Districts Mill Rates (Apples to Oranges?)

CT Town Mill Rate Real & Personal Property Mill Rate Motor Vehicle

Stamford 26.94 27.25
Sterling 31.94 31.94
Stonington 23.85 23.85
Stratford 39.46 39.46

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