.

Board Of Finance Cuts $150K From Town Budget

Public Meeting is this Wednesday; referendum vote is May 23.

 

There was shouting, red faces and accusations at the May 14 Board of Finance meeting and that was before the vote.

Things got heated last night as the finance board discussed where they felt cuts should be made in the $15 million town budget following its failure at a May 9 referendum vote.

The $31.3 million school budget passed by a vote of 1,462 to 1,292.

Especially heated was the discussion over the budget and whether or not funds should be cut in light of a large showing of library supporters at the budget public hearing.

In the end, the finance board took into account the recent recommendations by the , but in a slightly different package.

The selectmen met in a special meeting May 11 to cut a minimum of $75,000 from the town's budget   In their cuts, the selectmen reduced the budget by these line items: $13,000 from the health and life insurance policy; $12,000 from electricity (a new rate goes into effect Sept. 1); $50,000 from the contingency line item; $21,000 from town hall personnel (one full-time employee will be moved to a part-time, non-union position with no benefits); $29,000 from the police department; $12,000 from the Selectmen's stipend fund and $13,000 from the Henry Carter Hull Library's budget.

In a vote by the Board of Finance, they approved reducing the town budget by $150,000 but making these changes: removing the cut of the selectmen's $12,000 stipend; changing the library's $13,000 cut to $2,000; increasing the police department's cut from $29,000 to $32,000, and removing a proposed town vehicle for $20,000.

The final cuts:

$13,000 from health and life insurance

$12,000 from electricity

$50,000 from the contingency fund

$21,000 from town hall personnel

$32,000 from the police department

$2,000 from the Henry Carter Hull Library

$20,000 for a proposed new town vehicle

With these cuts, the proposed new town budget for fiscal 2012-2013 is $14,898,814.  The mill rate is now proposed at 25.18.  The current mill rate is 24.92.  

There will be a public hearing on this reduced budget on Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm at .

A referendum vote will be held on Wednesday, May 23 at town hall from 6am to 8pm.

Catherine May 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I hope this satisfies the no vote....CTA care to comment? The reason our mil rate is the highest on the shoreline is because our property values are the lowest, this has always historically been the case but is not helped by having a reputation that we don't like to invest in our town. If you don't want to pay a lot of property tax move to Bridgeport or Hartford, they will surely be lower.
Dana Wickware May 15, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Although the Board of Finance has dropped a proposal to eliminate stipends for Clinton Selectmen, it seems likely that we will hear more about this issue. While I’m as exasperated by the behavior of politicians as the next man, considering the number of hours the Selectmen must devote to the job (about 800 a year), a $3000 stipend is very modest and, in my opinion, entirely appropriate.What’s more, even a small stipend has the force of an unwritten contract motivating the recipients to actually do the job they are elected to do.
Glenn Coffin May 15, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Robyn do you work for free?
Tom Riccio May 15, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Contrary to the headline, no budget cut has occurred, nor has one occurred in the past 13 years I have lived in town. A proposed reduction to the proposed spending budget is on the table. A budget cut would mean a figure less than last years budget. I moved here because Clinton has good schools, good safety and security, and good people, which at that time were at an affordable level. Having the best of everything in life is never really required especially when personal finances are needed for other ventures such as tuition, care for elderly parents, and unforseen medical needs. Town government spending does not increase property value. If that were true then your home's value should have risen after the new police station went up or after the new public works building was completed. Did it rise after the new seats went into the Morgan auditorium, or after we bought new police cars? Oh, it must have been after the new town beach facilities went in or after the new windows went into a few schools. Maybe it will rise after we get our new million dollar resue truck. Funny, my house decreased in value by $50,000 over the past few years due to market forces and it will rise again due to market forces. Clinton continues to have champagne taste on a beer budget. One must remember the diverse economics of our town when considering future expenses vs. needs. A good argument can be made that many of our recent "needs" were in fact "wants" pushed to a few distinct voting blocks.
Minnie Mouse May 15, 2012 at 09:25 PM
The Town claimed to have saved tens of thousands by renegotiating insurance and utilities. Shouldn't that savings have off-set the increase. As a Town, do we plan to spend all that was saved AND an additional $600,000 to $800,000 ? I think residents were looking for a flat budget or a modest 1% considering the savings that was realized and the current economy. Do we really need to spend $2,000,000 to fix up the old police building for more town offices which will also increase operating costs for utilities, maintenance etc ? We took a huge hit this year with hurricane irene. Next year we start paying the debt for the $8,000,000 bonding package and operating the old police building. This may be too much to pile on at this point.
Vindaloo May 15, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I think it's sad that a member of our community has just lost most of their income and all of their benefits so we can each save $1.
Art Kuever May 15, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I agree with Glenn, if this removal was not done I would have stood up at the meeting tomorrow night and asked that they put the stipend back in. These selectman get $3000 a year to deal with these issues and with the townspeople that are for or against what they are doing. This is not enough, I am sure that not many people would work for what that comes out to be per hour.
Art Kuever May 15, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I agree with a point here, we should not spend any money on the old police department. I did not see a line item for an expenditure on it but that should be tabled unless the cost is for removal. Also, I am hoping that it is not town money being spent on the sidewalks and if it is, I hope no more is going to be spent. I think we should wait to see what happens with the waste water and if there is going to be a pipe down route 1, then we should incorporate the burying of the power lines at the same time and the sidewalks all at once. This will be less intrusive and can be coordinated between the groups. I have seen a road totally re-done from the base up then 6 months later the water company come through and cut a line down the middle. Any one that comes down Nod to the dump will see the lack of coordination.
Phil Sengle May 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM
The BOS meets weekly donating hundreds of hours while most of the rest of us watch TV or attend town sporting events, etc. It is often a contentious job. The stipend is a pitance and is well deserved.
Phil Sengle May 16, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Tom: I agree with most of what you said, especially "A good argument can be made that many of our recent "needs" were in fact "wants" pushed by a few distinct voting blocks." A few groups like the Library and the new Morgan committee can marshal their forces to come to meetngs to lobby for funding and they usually get it. This is no way for the town "fathers" to set priorities.
Phil Sengle May 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Hurray for Art and "Minnie" opposing the waste of $2M on the old PD. Talk about a project we don't need. I hope some remember to bring this up at tonight's budget hearing. On a related topic. Since the March BOE meeting minutes revealed that the BOE may have a budget surplus exceeding $650K, I want to repeat a suggestion made in another Patch article about the budget. And that is that costs that are directly related to education should not be carried in the town budget, they should be transfered to the BOE. Specific suggestions were the School Resourse Officer and the towns maintenance of school fields and the equipment required. Doesn't proper accounting require that costs be assigned to the generating cost center? This would take pressure off of the town budget and put the costs where there always seems to be money. I don't mention who suggested this because some of you will automatically reject it without listening (reading).
Jonathan Sanders May 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Well it really is the townspeoples money regardless of which budget it comes from. We all paid for it. Also, the town is the one that gets the surplus back, the BOE does not keep it. That money should come back to the taxpayers. That is the only problem I see with a surplus, that the taxpayers don't get that money back.
Bradford J. Sullivan May 16, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Actually, the town benefits from the BOE's surplus. Historically, the BOE utilizes its surplus for capital projects, which reduces the BOE capital request for next fiscal year. It is an effective use of the surplus that the BOF has supported for many, many years. I see no reason to change that policy in light of the perrenial town budget defeats. You will recall that the capital budget proposed for 2012/2013 was nearly 1.2 Million. It was reduced (or deferred) to the current level during the budget's preparation.
Andrea Hazel May 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Hey Robyn, I was there. Certain people wanted to give it up and others complained about it. Don't get all fired up until you see it in action. Hazel Andrea
Bruce Lighty May 16, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Brad, I ask this point of information as a citizen trying to understand the facts. As I understand, the BOE budget has had a surplus for the past few years. Your comment seems to imply that this has been historical and has gone on for many many years. Is that actually the case?
Bradford J. Sullivan May 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Yes, the BOE has had budget surplus every year since I have been on the BOF. So has the town. Stating the obvious: the opposite of surplus is a deficit, and we just can't let that happen...ever. Of course, over the last few years that goal is getting harder to achieve, and it has come at the cost of reduced staff, services, capital improvements, etc.
Annie May 19, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Deficit ? Bradford please share with myself and others that peruse the Patch : How much was the Surplus for the past two FYE for BOE & the Town ? Why are you suggesting that the surplus should be used for Capital items when that is not what was voted on during referendum ? I assume there is a 10 year plan and each year we vote on the items that will be included in that years budget. It should not be the BOE, nor the BOF's right to DECIDE how they will spend the taxpayer's surplus. Those funds need to be returned in some way that actually creates a reduction in our taxes. How much was spent in the past 2 yrs from Contingency & Undesignated Funds ???
Bradford J. Sullivan May 19, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Annie, I suggest you get a copy of the town report and audit and you will see exactly how taxpayer money is accounted for. Surpluses are not automatically appropriated to revenues for tax relief because it is a poor fiscal policy. Look at Killingworth's budget issue concerning appropriated surplus. There is already a line item of 250k for surplus and I think that is too much. As far as decision making is concerned, what do you think the responsibilities of the Bd. of Finance are if not to make decisions about the town's finances? I am not going to respond to the appropriations question from undesignated and the contingency fund for the last two years because that would be a time consuming task to undertake right now. Finally, there is indeed a 10 year capital plan that has been gutted due to rejected budgets! I think it is safe to say that over the last 4 years, the voters would have had a collective stroke if the BOF proposed fully funding the CIP. Enjoy the rest of this beautiful Saturday.
Annie May 20, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Bradford: I wrote the BOE/BOF should not be deciding how to spend "our" surplus...I never implied in any way that the BOF should not "make decisions about Town finances". You know full-well what I meant and deflected all my questions. I think voters expect the BOF to recognize that after a huge surplus you would take the steps necessary to ensure that money is returned and we don't end up with another huge surplus. It is disturbing. More disturbing is how much was tapped from undesignated and drained from contingency fund and the surplus spent & here you (BOF) are back for another large increase to the budget. PS: In past 3,years CIP was gutted long before it went to referendum, bec it was traded for raises
Kim Buckley May 20, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Let me begin by reiterating Brad's point that we do not know at this point what, if any, surplus the BOE will have for this fiscal year since it does not end until June. Having said that, I find it interesting that people are upset about a budget surplus. As anyone who lives with a budget knows, when you create a budget, you estimate how much you will need to set aside to meet your obligations according to past spending. In a responsible budget, you set aside funds for unexpected expenses and for unpredictable increases in costs you cannot control such as utility and healthcare costs. For years, our Boards of Finance and Education have done a remarkable job with their fiduciary responsibilities as evidenced by the fact that we have not had budget deficits during these challenging economic times with rising healthcare and energy costs like many, many other communities. Would the people of Clinton prefer that alternative? Would we rather be like Harrisburg, PA where they are contemplating cutting kindergarten because of a $15.2 million deficit? Or Sacramento, CA where they are eliminating PE in their elementary schools and home-to-school transportation because of a $28 million deficit? Or Amity, here in CT, where in 2002 they had a $2.8 million deficit due to "financial mismanagement"? I think not.
Queen Beach 72 May 20, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I still don t understand how the BoE has ANY need for more money when the enrollment every year go down, down, down. I get the fact that there are contracts that mandate salary inceases but why do we have continue to maintain the same number of teachers with fewer students. The BoE exists to look out for taxpayers, the superintendent exists to look out for the eduational process. Why doesn't the BoE do it's job and work to make sure the enviroment for learning is optimally efficient. We spend a fortune on educating our shrinking student body. Wake up BoE, read the rule book and see what it is you are supposed to be doing. BoE-stop being so angry at taxpayers and start "making do" with $31 MILLION DOLLARS to educate 2000 students.
Annie May 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Clinton has a surplus year after year after year. This happens because of many reasons but mostly because the administrators continously over budget. An example: we have staff/teachers retire (which EVERYBODY knows in advance) and some aren't replaced & others are replaced at a MUCH lower cost and the admin continue to carry the original salaries in their budget. They know where they will have savings & they do not adjust the budget accordingly. I think the residence have no problem paying to have a nice town & nice schools but we look around and see little return on our investment. That deficit scare tactic is bunk. The continued massive surplus year after year is UNACCEPTABLE.
Annie May 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I should add that the Massive Surplus is UNACCEPTABLE because of continuously padding budgets. The BOE/BOF spending that surplus instead of reducing the tax burden is also UNACCEPTABLE. I think people might be able to stomach the surplus if they believed it was a result of savvy decisions/efforts to save AND upon realizing these savings it was somehow passed on to the taxpayers instead of spent. Example: allegedly BOE doesn't know and won't know what their surplus is until June, but you can bet they already have it spent
Bradford J. Sullivan May 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The primary focus with any surplus is to accumulate more than 10% of the FY's operating budgets in the undesignated fund or general fund balance. This is vital to keep Clinton's credit rating high. So, if the total operating budgets are $45 Million then the undesignated fund balance should be approximately 4.5 Million. We are close to that floor. With the contingency fund reduced in the proposed budget, Clinton will have approx 150k in emergency appropriation money. The goal is to leave the undesignated balance untouched. This year was impossible. Irene, rescue vehicle, litigation settlement, pension, etc. I think, overall, the town's proposed budget is tighter than what is usually comfortable. However, rejecting this proposed budget because of an estimated surplus will make it more challenging to accomplish the BOF's goal of putting forth a responsible spending plan that maintains services, and I am mainly speaking about town hall services, DPW, library and police. Concurrently, the BOF must fund infrastructure improvements and keep an eye on the town's credit rating. We taxpayers would like to have lower borrowing costs when Clinton starts issuing bonds to build the new high school. There isn't a trick to it really other than doing your best to make sure department heads are being responsible with their departments. Where's the waste in the town's spending budget?
Bradford J. Sullivan May 20, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I loathe special appropriations during the FY, but expenses and costs rise (some go down too!) Things like the weather, cost for a barrel of oil, an injured patrol officer, a broken transmission... You get the idea. I also loathe paying taxes I don't have to. I live and work in Clinton and understand the stark differeneces that exist within our community. Clinton is home to thousands covering every rung of the socio-economic ladder. My responsibility is to every resident not just the most vocal and involved taxpayers. Anyway, I admit that it is extremely difficult to keep voters informed. I have tried to explain things evenly in articles, posts, public meetings but sometimes I fall a little short of that goal. I do my best to locate padding in the budgets and eliminate it, but my responsibility on the board of finance requires that I also ensure that Clinton has budgeted enough to cover its bills. I am reading and listening. I find all of the contributions, whether anonymous or not, to be illuminating ad helpful. I definitely will continue to strive for a reasonable compromise or balance whenever possible. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Jim Braun May 21, 2012 at 01:47 AM
How is coming within 5% of their budget massive? I think I'm missing something here. If this was darts, that would almost be a bullseye. Did you want them to be off by only a penny? Keep in mind the goal is never ending up with a deficit.
Steve Bristol May 21, 2012 at 02:18 PM
KIm I could be wrong but haven't you frequently commented that people can't legitimately compare different situations? That aside, I think what many have in mind when they complain of surpluses is that it's not automatically returned to the town. We should absolutely be under budget each year as, while retirements in the preceding fiscal/academic year are talked of, you can't know for sure any teacher's plans until such time as papers are filed to retire. In most cases, those slots are filled with lower paid replacements. Also, things like negotiations that take place after budget season affect the bottom line. $650K is a lot but the % is reasonable when reached through a process I would expect to be followed. Any major decrease in that number by the EOY would proportionately raise my concern of baseline inflating. What many don't seem to like is hearing 'we're entitled to spend every dime of that money,' referring to any surplus. An awful lot of the time it's not put towards what we're told is being 'cut' or temporarily delayed 'at the expense of the children' but to a different Wish List. I can only speak for myself but I'd rather see any surplus returned to the town and have those Wish Lists be part of the next year's budget request. It's a means by which the town can exercise a bit more oversight regarding the BoE. Sadly, it seems to have become a situation where the BoE can 'plan' to add things that otherwise wouldn't survive budget season. Steve
Steve Bristol May 21, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Additionally...I would expect that, during "challenging economic times," it would be EASIER to negotiate better prices/costs than during good times. A perfect example would be where companies were having to accept smaller profit margins and not pass along their own cost increases as much to have ANY business. Steve
Annie May 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Mr. Sullivan explained above that "BOE utilizes its surplus for capital projects, which reduces the BOE capital request for next fiscal year." That would be more tolerable, though not my preference, if it were true, but it simply is not. The BOE surplus last year was not used for ANY capital projects that were in the CIP budget for that year, the following year or any year!!! The BOE "created" completely new items and spent the money as they saw fit. Unfortunately they did not "reduce capital requests for the next fiscal year". As for the Credit Rating, we have far more than is required to keep our credit rating and to imply that the surplus has any connection to that credit rating doesn't make sense considering that Mr. Sullivan just explained that every year since he has been on the BOF there has been a surplus and that the BOF supports a policy of allowing the surplus to be spent. So I can only conclude that if it's spent it isn't going into undesignated.
Annie May 21, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Mr. Sullivan it isn't personal to you or the other members of the BOF. I do appreciate the time and effort you all have so freely given to our community but I would like to see a BOF that truly did consider all of the constituents. There are only a few willing to be vocal, ask the difficult questions that should be asked and endure the criticism for being so bold in doing so. It is much much more difficult to challenge and sometimes say no. I suspect that many of the people posting here and coming out to public hearings to voice their opposition truly care about this Town, it's past and it's future, otherwise they would not have bothered at all.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something