New Milford starts work on $102.5 million budget
Published 6:36 pm, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
NEW MILFORD — Mayor David Gronbach gave a quick overview of the $102.5 million budget town officials will discuss over the coming weeks prior to Monday’s regular council meeting.
The budget is about $2.7 million, or 2.7 percent, more than the current budget.
Like many surrounding towns, one of the biggest increases is due to health insurance. New Milford is anticipating an increase of about $929,000 next year for town employees, which is required by contract. The town is implementing programs that promote healthy living to mitigate the costs of claims and medical treatment.
Another challenge most towns are facing is proposed cuts in state funding. New Milford is slated to get $6 million less, with most of the cuts coming from education aid and a new proposed requirement that the town pay into the state pension plan, Gronbach said.
“Because of our healthy financial position, the state has targeted us and other towns to essentially take our hard-earned savings and distribute them to state liabilities and cities,” Gronbach said.
He said the state’s expectation is that the town will cover the shortfall by pulling from the “significant” fund balance, which Gronbach said was built up over the years, often because town departments did more with less.
Gronbach said Monday that the town will not panic, and town officials will continue to work with elected state representatives and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to oppose the cuts.
“We certainly will not accept this without a fight,” he said.
The new budget calls for an increase in salaries of $151,000, but Gronbach said the increase was reasonable and a result of negotiations with three unions that rewarded town employees while also recognizing “the fiscal realities we face.”
Gronbach said he also increased the Public Works budget, but not as high as the $835,000 increase requested for the department’s operating budget or the $3.2 million increase requested for the department’s capital budget.
“We continue to work towards funding major infrastructure and road projects with financing, as has been done in the past,” he said.
Gronbach also highlighted some of the savings the town has achieved this year from various actions, such as leaving the executive secretary position in his office vacant, canceling cable and newspaper subscriptions, as well as not seeking mileage reimbursement.
Some of the other savings were about $23,000 in utility costs and working on a bond package to consolidate the town’s debt, which could result in at least $500,000 in savings.
“We are servants, and with this budget, I hope that we continue to earn the faith of the citizens of New Milford in the way that their tax dollars are spent,” he said.