The Stratford Town Council will vote tonight on a budget proposed by Mayor John Harkins and the Stratford Board of Education tonight at their May Town Council meeting. The Budget has passed its initial steps of referral to the Council Ordinance Committee and was referred back to the Council for final approval and adjustments. The Town Council holds final authorization of town expenditures.
The Town Council meeting starts at 8 pm, and a public forum for residents to voice their views starts at 6:45 pm at the Town Council Chambers in Town Hall.
The initial budget proposal from the administration and Board of Education called for approximately a 6 percent increase, or $11.5million dollars from the 2013-2014 budget. The public schools account for over half of all spending in town, and the proposed increase is just over 2.4% or $2.3 million dollars. The Board of Education originally proposed a $5.2 million increase, to help improve technology and computers systems throughout the schools, and may work out a $3 million bond, or Capital Improvement Project, in the fall with the Mayor and Town Council's input.
A major payment to the pension obligatons are another reason for the increase. In 2013, Mayor Harkins and the Town Council passed a $23.4 million bond to finance the underfunded pension liability. This was preceded by the elimination of future pensions for new hires to all 6 of the public unions, including the elimination of overtime counting towards pension calculations. All town employees hired under the old defined benefit, or pension plan, are legally entitled to still have those pensions. Over two decades ago, the Town Council and Town Manager approved legally binding pensions with many of the public sector unions, which the Town is still paying for to this day.
The pension obligation accounts for almost a quarter of the municipal budget (excluding Board fo Education allocations). Once the pension obligations are reigned in, and the bond payments satisfied in the next several years, thw Town's pension obligation dramatically reduces, alleviating the burden for taxpayers down the road.
The budget proposal does not reduce services or lay off any Town employees.