By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The city of Bristol is proposing a total budget of $185,005,865 for Fiscal Year 2016, which would result in a zero tax increase for taxpayers.
The proposed budget represents a decrease of .07 percent, or $134,750, over the current bottom line of $185,140,615. If the budget is approved as is, the mill rate would remain at 34.61.
“This…is not reducing services or programs,” said City Comptroller Glenn Klocko, who made the budget presentation during a special Board of Finance meeting held last Monday.
One major change occurred in the Board of Education’s proposed budget of $110,217,920 for FY 16, which would have resulted in a 3.16 percent increase over the current budget. After working with Bristol Superintendent of Schools Ellen Solek and other school officials, city officials cut the requested school budget by $3,381,270, keeping it the same as the current school board budget of $106,836,650.
Klocko said the city found other ways to make another $1.65 million available for educational needs without causing lay-offs or a negative impact on students.
“This goes above that level so the [Board of Education] doesn’t have to make any lay-offs,” said Klocko.
Mayor Ken Cockayne thanked the Board of Education for its collaboration.
“We sat through many meetings with the Board of Education,” said Cockayne, who also thanked the finance board. “Great work to all involved.”
During a Board of Education meeting held last Wednesday, School Board Chairman Larry Amara said, although it has been a difficult process over the past couple of years, the superintendent and the mayor have had “a really solid conversation about what is needed in education.”
“What we’re trying to accomplish is…to be able to say that we are one, we are one city, we are one budget, we all have needs,” said Amara. “We’ve had…open discussions.”
“We will continue to work closely with city officials until the budget development process is completed,” said Solek during the school board meeting.
Another way the city was able to reduce the tax bite was the receipt of a state grant of $2.3 million that helped with snow removal and road repairs. In addition, the city was able to avoid a tax hike due to additional state aid and surplus money from previous years that helped cover the costs of items, such has memory cards for computers in the Registrars of Voters Office and police SUVs.
Cheryl Thibeault, chairperson of the finance board, said she is pleased to see the proposed budget brings no tax increase while not cutting any city services or programs.
“Stars aligned this year,” said Thibeault, adding the city will not be as lucky next year. “We’re fortunate that we can…have no impact to the taxpayers.”
“We did not know where this was going to turn out,” said Klocko.
Board of Finance Vice Chairman John Smith expressed concern over allowing the implementation of no tax increases to become a pattern. From 1995 to 1999, for five years in a row, the city of Bristol had no tax increase.
“It took us about six years to get back on track,” said Smith. “I don’t want to fall into that track again.”
Cockayne said the proposed budget is putting an additional $1.6 million into road repair while decreasing the general city budget.
“This is a budget I will support,” said Cockayne. “We’re still putting money in our infrastructure, we’re still keeping services the same—we’re doing everything right.”
The Board of Finance expected to adopt a budget after its regularly scheduled meeting on April 28.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO