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The Cheshire Town Council appears ready to adopt an Operating Budget that cuts Town Manager Michael Milone's initial proposal by more than $1.8 million.
While the Council won't formally adopt the budget until Tuesday night, it likely the proposed cuts will pass. Among those would be roughly $1.4 million from education funding and approximately $400,000 from Town spending. Under this plan, the average tax increase to a resident with a home and two cars would drop from $244 to $86.
"I think this is reasonable, responsible, and affordable for the majority of Cheshire residents," explained David Schrumm, chairman of the Council’s Budget Committee. "We tried to figure out what the average person in town could afford in the way of taxes, so this is what we have to spend and we allocate that across all departments."
Initially, Town Manager Michael Milone proposed an Operating Budget of $99.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Those funds represented an increase of $3.9 million, or 4.1 percent over current spending levels. In the request, the Board of Education proposed an increase of $2.37 million, but the Council is going to reduce that number. According to Schrumm, the Council is proposing a BOE increase of $975,000, which reduces the initial request by nearly $1.4 million.
"This is under the assumption of successful discussions with the teacher's union. Hopefully there is some progress on the teacher's contract," Schrumm explained. "This is also in light of continued, slow decline of enrollment. There seems to be a comfort level that this will be fine."
On the Town side of the budget, Schrumm explained that the $400,000 reduction would be found in eliminating a few part time positions, scaling back the overtime budgets, reducing equipment purchases, and "other small stuff that adds up."
"We are where we want to be with the numbers, but it's not where everyone wants to be," Schrumm stated. "We tried to take a conservative approach and long term view of finances. It will keep the Town on solid financial footing and, long term, thats what's best for Cheshire residents."
The elephant in the room, however, is what will happen with state funding. When the Council adopts its budget Tuesday night, the state will have yet to adopt its budget. While Gov. Dannel Malloy initially proposed keeping municipal aide constant the next two years, fiscal pressures could result in cuts to local governments. By Town Charter, the Council cannot increase the mill rate to generate more tax revenue after the budget is adopted, it can only be lowered. If hundreds of thousands of dollars are cut at the 11th hour, Schrumm warned there would be additional layoffs and program changes to balance the budget.
"Any significant reductions by the Governor are really going to do something to the towns and cities," Schrumm said.
The Town Council will meet on Tuesday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall Council Chambers.