Montville mayor proposes budget with 2.23 mill increase

Montville — Mayor Ron McDaniel presented his 2018-19 proposed budget to the Town Council Monday, saying a roughly 5 percent increase over current spending was driven by increased capital project expenses and the state's "continued failure to preserve municipal aid."

Total proposed spending for town operations, education and capital projects is about $60.5 million, $2.9 million more than the current year's budget. McDaniel's proposal would increase the town's tax rate by 2.23 mills, about a $111 increase on a property assessed at $50,000.

McDaniel said $1.42 million in capital improvements — road and drainage repairs, equipment and vehicle replacement and new radio equipment — made up the bulk of increased spending.

The budget does not call for any new staff. McDaniel noted that if every budget line was proposed precisely as requested by department heads, "a nearly 8 mill increase would have been necessary."

McDaniel said "much is still unknown" when it comes to state funding because the legislature has "failed to act on the budget in a timely manner."

"While Hartford receives a $550 million bailout and tens of millions more for the XL Center and Dillon Stadium, we small, distressed municipalities are left to beg for crumbs to operate our most basic functions," he said. "While we remain hopeful that there is some relief on the horizon, we must continue to plan for the future with the facts we have in hand."

Several Town Council members urged residents to write and call their state representatives. The councilors argued southeastern Connecticut and casino host communities like Montville were an afterthought when it came to Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund Grant and state aid in general.

Councilor Joe Rogulski argued the state's efforts to establish a regulatory framework for sports betting would help "casinos and licensed off track betting and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation find more ways to make money, which will be woefully wasted on nothing that will do anything for southeastern Connecticut or the town of Montville."

The mayor's budget included no changes to the Board of Education's $37.9 million spending plan.

The proposed education budget includes two teacher layoffs — a move that Superintendent Brian Levesque was not happy about — but far fewer layoffs than in an earlier proposal.

The proposed school budget represents a 0.85 percent increase over the $37.6 million approved by the Town Council for 2017-18. That figure was eventually slashed to $36.6 million after the state cut funding in the middle of the school year.

On Feb. 22, the state sent letters to the superintendents of six municipalities, including Montville, informing them that they're in noncompliance with the 2017-18 minimum budget requirement.

Levesque disputes the state's MBR calculation because it doesn't factor in the cut in funding of $1,023,764 that Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered for Montville in November.

Unless the matter is resolved this year, the state Department of Education could hold back $355,012 — double the amount the town is under the minimum — in Education Cost Sharing money from Montville in 2018-19.

Public hearings at high school auditorium are set for Monday, April 23, for the general town budget and Thursday, April 26, for the Board of Education budget.

Councilor and Finance Committee Chairman Wills Pike also pushed for town departments, the Board of Education and Economic Development Commission to find innovative ways to help the town become more self-sustaining.

"It's a lofty goal, but we need to find a way to be less dependent on the state of Connecticut," he said.

The Town Council will take a final vote on the budget in May.

b.kail@theday.com

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