Fat budget needs a diet

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As with any family, a budget sometimes needs to be amended based on internal or external fiscal factors. I would like to challenge each of the departments to consider a reduction of two percent to their budgets not by simply trying to meet the current plus-2 percent budget-increase target.

We should be tightening our belt and adopting a lower calorie diet if you will. We need to adjust our thinking to consider not just what we can live without but learning to live without certain aspects of what we’ve come to expect and be more self-reliant.

This has become more evident with the global Covid-19 virus that will change individual and family revenue sources; we cannot afford to create that stress at this time. Our prior “greatest generation” lived without many luxuries and necessities during WWII. They adjusted and ultimately had the realization that “… by overcoming difficulties, we gain strength and maturity.”

Mediate union contracts when they come up. We can’t sustain the demands and current commitments but must broker to reduce/delay pension/salary increases with only potential exemption for cost-of-living adjustments. Connecticut has approximately $2.3 billion in its rainy day/contingency fund with an estimated $80 billion in unfunded mandates, which may impact us further.

April is metaphorically bringing us showers. Using some of the rainy day/general fund to selectively reduce or retain flat budgets is an option. We could increase the budgets of some departments, say the emergency/first responders by only two percent and temporarily reduce other budgets because school may be out for a while with the virus issue. Planned facility improvements/new education classes could be put on hold. The Public Works Department can dispense with its anticipated wish list. Home schooling could be a future consideration for some families, particularly with stay-at-home parents.

Selling or leasing assets should always be in the marketing plan, which by the way, we still do not have. Using that income to pay off any bond-balance respective debts would help with long term debt.

We must cut the budget to minimum expenditures without perks and “feel goods.” Taxpayers cannot be treated as the town’s blank check and forcing families to make personal living adjustments to pay property taxes or selling their house short to be able to leave Connecticut.

The town must adjust to more prudent thinking. Otherwise we will be subject to the “only two percent increase every year” challenge that will slip to three or four percent as the state enforces unfunded mandates on the municipalities.

If the special needs costs can be addressed, the Board of Education, and ultimately the town, will see a savings that can be beneficial to the taxpayers. This should bein the marketing plan.

There is always fat in the budget that is hiding in line items that are anticipated or wanted. It’s known as a “sludge” factor for bad calls or it’s used later for purposes other than originally identified. 

We’ve done enough budgets to give us the ability to do better than this and get us to a zero-raise budget and a flat mill rate.