Like clockwork, a new year brings municipal budget discussions to the forefront. Also like clockwork are the comments from local officials on how difficult it will be to put together the year’s budget.
But this year’s budget discussion in South Windsor really does bring a number of challenges that the town has not faced in years past, according to Mayor Tom Delnicki.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Delnicki outlined the realities that the town is facing in putting together the 2013-14 budget.
At the local level, the town has the first payment - about $1 million - for the sewage treatment plant, along with a $600,000 increase to the town’s self-funded insurance plan, Delnicki said.
The school district also has several new or increased expenditures that figure to be drivers in 2013-14, including all-day kindergarten, a spike in special education costs and salary rises for teachers and administrators that were approved by the school board in the collective bargaining process.
“We also have to make a decision for our emergency shelter at the high school,” Delnicki said referring to either restacking the fuel cell at the high school for $400,000 or buying a gasoline generator for several hundred thousand dollars.
But what also concerns Delnicki - what he calls “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” - is the state’s projected $1.2 billion deficit. At issue is whether the state will be able to provide the same assistance it has in the past in the form of grants and education cost sharing. The town received $13.1 million from the state in education cost sharing alone in 2012.
What’s more, Delnicki pointed out that the town still must address what to do with its aging school buildings; the school district is expected to release a plan in the coming year.
“We have to be planning for that,” Delnicki said.
All of which means that there is little to add in terms of “luxury items” to the $98.4 2012-13 budget, Delnicki said.
“With this budget, we have to focus on the bread and butter of government,” Delnicki said. “This is the cost of what we’re confronted with in carrying out the business of the town. There is no money for luxury items we might want.
“This is not a year for amenities.”
To further illustrate his point, Delnicki said that the Town Council voted to implement a hiring freeze and other cost-cutting measures in December. Delnicki said that the council typically doesn’t pass cost-saving resolutions until January of February.
“It points to how serious it is,” Delnicki said. “There is no spare cash floating around.”
Delnicki said that he and Town Manager Matthew Galligan would set a budget schedule for workshops in the near future.
The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Correction: the Town Council's next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 7, not Jan. 14. South Windsor Patch regrets the error.