New Milford must find $1.55 million after budget miscalculation
Published 7:34 pm, Sunday, March 19, 2017
NEW MILFORD — Town Council will conduct a special meeting Monday to discuss how to deal with the finance department’s $1.55 million miscalculation in expected revenue for 2017-18.
In an email to Town Council members on Friday, Mayor David Gronbach said some revenue was accidentally counted twice when calculating the tax rate for next year’s $102.5 million budget, which the Town Council approved and sent to the Board of Finance last week.
To avoid adding further to the 1.8 percent increase in the planned tax rate for next year, the mayor proposed several measures, including selling town-owned land.
Gronbach did not return a phone call Saturday seeking comment. Town Council member Paul Szymanski said the two miscalculated portions of the revenue were $250,000 that was to be taken from the unassigned fund and $1.3 million in back tax collections.
The additional revenue needed to correct the mistake would include $1.18 million from sales of town-owned property, although Szymanski said it has not been determined which properties will be sold. About $314,000 in additional revenue would come from the Water Pollution Control Authority and $60,000 more in interest income.
Council member Mary Jane Lundgren said the mistake might have happened because the town’s comptroller and director of finance were out recently on sick leave.
“People make mistakes,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this happened, but we’ve had the comptroller and director of finance both out on sick leave, so it’s been a pretty tough budget season for the mayor to pull everything together.”
Finding additional revenue is preferable to making more cuts to services, she said.
In finalizing the recently approved $102.5 million budget for next year, about $284,000 was cut from the mayor’s proposed town budget and $225,000 was eliminated from the schools’ budget. Both the town and schools will pull $250,000 from the Internal Service Fund, a medical fund used to back the town’s self-funded insurance for employees.
Lungdren said the hardest reduction to make was for nonprofit agencies, cut by 30 percent for all but three organizations. But that was preferable, she said, to a “whopping tax increase.”
Both said Monday’s meeting will likely include discussion only of revenue revisions and not of expenditures. Szymanski criticized this approach, saying the council should have the opportunity to review the entire budget again to find a more long-term solution.
“We should be cutting expenditures, not coming up with phantom revenues,” he said. “This is fiscally irresponsible, because this revenue doesn’t occur again next year. So even if we magically sell enough in town properties, what do we do next year?”
Szymanski was one of four Republican members who opposed the most recent cuts to the budget.
“With this budget, we’re funding wants and we’re not funding our needs,” he said.
Szymanski said the budget should have included more funding for items such as new road reconstruction and less for “wants” like the plan to convert John Pettibone School into a community center.
The council should avoid making cuts, Lundgren countered, unless it needs to revisit the budget after the amount of state aid next year is known for certain.
Next year’s town budget does not account for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget, which would cut $6.6 million in state funding for New Milford. The official state budget will not be decided until June.
The special Town Council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday in Town Hall’s E. Paul Martin Room.