Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra proposed a $38.5 million dollar Board of Selectmen budget at Monday night's meeting. That's a $731,155, or 1.9%, increase. And Llodra said she wishes it could have been more.
"Our departments have made an extraordinary effort to keep their costs flat," said Llodra. "If it weren't for the 1.7% general wage increase, which was really modest -- and I'd like to provide much more than that -- you would really see no increase."
By the numbers, many departments -- including those approved by Selectmen Monday night -- saw the the 1.7% raise as the most major change in their budgets. (On Monday, Selectmen approved general government budgets, Land Use and the town's contingency fund.) But the more difficult increases to approve could come at Tuesday's meeting, in which the board will discuss the departments of Public Safety, Public Works and the capital non-recurring fund.
"Those discussions are not nearly as fluid as what we discussed tonight," said Llodra.
Across the budget, capital accounts represents the largest increase -- in Public Works especially. A $152,000 bump up in the Highway Department's capital budget is the single largest increase the First Selectman's office is asking for.
The primary areas of increase, according to the First Selectman's office, are:
- Wages and Salaries: a $165,492 increase to account for a 1.7% yearly wage increase for employees. According to the report, the increase also includes salary enhancements for non-union personnel who have been "seriously undercompensated."
- Fringe Benefts, including Health Insurance, Life Insurance, Long-Term Disability, Pension and Social Security: a $104,724 increase.
- Operating Expenses -- primarily in areas like public works projects and contractual drainage work: $178,008.
- Capital Accounts, which the Selectman's office says will focus on replacing vehicles and equipment: $219,267.
"Over the past years we underfunded replacement of equipment, demanding that vehicles and equipment be kept in service beyond their capacity to perform," said the release from the First Selectman's office. "This budget begins to address those significant needs."
Other specific departments:
- Police: The budget asks for a $202,812 increase in the Police Department, including an additional $85,945 toward sworn personnel.
- Fire: Newtown's fire departments approved a budget nearly identical to last year's at 1,214,591.
- Parks and Recreation: The department is asking for a $40,026 increase -- or 1.8% -- including $15,814 toward lifeguards.
More discussion on these requests and others contained in the budget will be coming in the following days. The full budget should be available on the town's web site Tuesday, said Finance Director Robert Tait.
In the only voter comment of the evening, resident David Freedman praised Llodra for "keeping the budget as flat as you can."
"A small increase for the staff is in my opinion well-needed, especially after what we have all exhausted ourselves with for the last couple months," said Freedman. "You guys definitely need to get a pat on the back. And hopefully the rest of the community will understand the importance of ... the small increase that is there."