Norwich hopes for extra $290,000 in budget help from state

Editor's note: The amount of additional state money Norwich may receive was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. This version corrects the amount.

Norwich - Preliminary state budget figures show the city could receive an additional $290,000 in state revenues, but until the city receives a final breakdown of those revenues, the City Council voted Monday to delay making changes to the city manager's proposed $118.4 million combined city and school budget for 2014-15.

Alderman Mark Bettencourt said he is considering adding funding to the school budget and perhaps other aspects of the city government budget, but recommended waiting until the city learns final state revenue figures.

Aldermen voted to adopt a preliminary budget without changes to City Manager Alan Bergren's recommended budget. Bergren included a 1.5 percent, $1.05 million increase in the school budget, for a total budget of $71.6 million for the coming year.

But the total falls $572,000 short of the board's revised budget request, which calls for a 2.31 percent increase over this year's $70.5 million budget. The increase mainly would fund restoration of universal full-day kindergarten, middle school world languages and instrumental music - all top priorities for the Board of Education - as well as adding media specialists for school libraries.

During an April 17 budget hearing, most speakers supported an increase to the school budget to fund the restored programs.

City Comptroller Josh Pothier told the council that Connecticut Council of Municipalities has estimated that Norwich would receive an additional $219,000 in state revenue for state-owned properties and a new account titled "municipal revenue sharing." But Bergren recommended waiting until the state legislative session ends Wednesday and budget implementing bills are completed before incorporating the new revenue into the budget.

Bettencourt agreed, but apologized to residents, because the delay likely would mean the council wouldn't make budget changes until after the second public hearing next Monday.

Residents often complain that aldermen make final changes to the budget after public hearings have gone by, allowing little time for public reaction and comment on proposed changes. Last spring, the council cut two staff members from the Human Services Department and a fire code clerk from the budget after hearings had passed.

Bettencourt said one of the changes he is considering this spring would be to restore the fire code clerk.

c.bessette@theday.com

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