Norwich partially funds last year's budget deficit

Norwich -- It may be a new fiscal year, but that doesn’t mean the city has put the financial concerns of last year's budget behind. 

On Monday, the City Council voted 6-1 to appropriate about $538,000 from the general fund in order to help fund deficits and over expenditures in last year's budget, including a $1.1 million deficit in the school budget. 

The resolution also appropriated an additional $15,000 for the police department, $3,000 each for the Laurel Hill Volunteer Fire Department and Taftville Fire Department, and $517,000 for the schools. This leaves a $583,000 deficit in the school budget that still needs to be addressed.

The council has scheduled a public hearing on Aug. 20 to consider an ordinance that would fund the remaining deficit. The deficit in the schools has been credited in part to higher than expected special education tuition and transportation costs. Meanwhile, the deficit in other departments has been attributed to things such as higher than anticipated materials and replacement costs, according to City Comptroller Joshua Pothier.

Despite the 6-1 approval Monday, councilors expressed concerns about the need to make additional appropriations, with Councilwoman Joanne Philbrick being the most critical.

“Last year we passed a budget it was horrendous, we went through the same thing, yet here we are transferring to the penny $538,000,” said Philbrick, the lone councilor to vote against the resolution while criticizing the way departments seem to function in approximations instead of precise figures. “It’s about time that we started living within our budget.” 

"And as far as the school is concerned, if I had my way, they wouldn’t get a penny… because they are the biggest offenders of all,” she added.

Other councilors expressed some concerns, but indicate the resolution was necessary in part to address unforeseen expenditures. They added, though, that city departments need to operate in a more fiscally responsible fashion.

“While I understand your concerns about transferring money some of these things are unforeseen … other expenditures are not unforeseen, but poorly budgeted,” said Councilwoman Stacy Gould. ”We need to have some kind of stopgap at some point in time, at the six-month mark … that reminds department heads this is where you are and this is what you’ve got left.”

“I think all of the department heads need to understand that during tough times, we need to be mindful of how much money we are spending,” she added.

Mayor Peter Nystrom praised the departments that ended the fiscal year with excess funds, which proved pivotal in helping to address shortfalls elsewhere, including those caused by the state.

“An issue that hasn’t been raised tonight is the midterm cuts the state sent our way … that is a portion of the issue we are addressing here tonight and in two weeks as well,” Nystrom said. "It is important to note we ask ourselves to live within our budget, we ask the state to live with the budget they passed and are going to share with us … they didn’t this past fiscal year." 



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