Waterford finance board begins budget deliberations

Waterford — The Board of Finance took its first stab at the town's proposed fiscal year 2017-18 budget Monday, passing five budget proposals without changes, but warning that they were voting on the proposed spending with little knowledge about how much money the town will be getting in state grants next year.

“This upcoming fiscal year, the actual amount of state grants is uncertain, to say the least,” board member John "Bill" Sheehan, a former longtime member of the Representative Town Meeting, said in remarks at the beginning of Monday’s meeting, citing $1.5 million in state revenue that Waterford could lose if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal were passed unchanged by the state legislature.

The heads of Waterford’s town departments have presented “budgets that are generally free from ‘wants’ as opposed to ‘needs,’" Sheehan said.

The Board of Finance is reviewing the town’s $90 million in proposed spending for the 2018 fiscal year that begins July 1, in hearings throughout the month of March. The three-person Board of Selectmen, led by First Selectman Daniel Steward, has already reviewed the town’s department budget requests, and the Board of Education passed a school budget proposal on to the Board of Finance at the end of February.

“I do not expect to see many reductions to this budget during the Board of Finance review,” Sheehan said Monday. “We will just be tightening around the edges. To do more than that will require a major reduction in services or needed capital expenditures to provide upkeep.”

But because of increased contractual costs and likely large cuts to Waterford’s portion of state funding, Sheehan said, taxes will go up.

The board voted unanimously to pass a $1,025,166 budget for the town’s library, most of which will go to personnel costs, building utilities and repairs, and books.

Board members also approved a $1,312,507 budget for the town’s emergency management department, which is headed by Waterford Police Lt. Steve Bellos. Bellos requested a $16,755 increase from the amount the department received last year, also mostly due to personnel costs.

A $6,004,651 police budget also passed the Board of Finance on Monday with no changes. Most of the department’s spending, which represents a more than $184,110, or 3.16 percent, increase from last year’s budget, also mostly would go to paying and training the officers and staff.

The board also passed a $263,414 budget proposal for information technology, a $245,000 contingency budget designed to cover unsettled contracts and a $56,945 budget that covers the cost of the town's annual audit, as well as staffing and materials for the Board of Finance itself.

It will consider the budget proposals from other town departments, including the school district, at budget hearings at Town Hall throughout the rest of March.

It then will vote on its total budget proposals for town, education and capital spending, and the 22-member Representative Town Meeting will hold hearings and a final vote in the first week of May.

m.shanahan@theday.com

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct proposed increase in the police department budget.

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