June 1, 2020 9:55am
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FY 2020-2021 budget for the Town of Stafford

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Attached you will find the FY 2020-2021 budget for the Town of Stafford. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in adherence to Executive Order 7I of Governor Ned Lamont, the Board of Finance has been authorized to approve a budget for the Town of Stafford and establish a mill rate. Please note: there will be no mill rate increase.

Please review the attached budgets (scroll to bottom of this page). In lieu of a traditional public hearing, we ask that if you wish to forward any questions or comments to the Board of Finance before our final approval action, please email to: erink@staffordct.org by noon, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Questions/comments and respective answers will be posted below for public viewing (scroll to bottom of this page).



QUESTIONS/COMMENTS RECEIVED:


RESIDENT SUBMISSION:
I wish to compliment the Board of Finance for working with the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Service District and the Water Pollution Boards to generate a workable budget without a mill rate increase. This accomplishment is well appreciated. I'm curious what the acronyms SDE and DMHAS shown in the section titled Sundry stand for.

RESPONSE (from Lisa Baxter, Town of Stafford CFO):
SDE = State Department of Education for a Youth Service Grant used at Family Services.
DMHAS = Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services also used at Family Services. Expenditure is mainly for client counseling and therapy at Stafford Family Services.



RESIDENT SUBMISSION:
Does the Board of Finance worry that they are being short sighted in no increase and that Stafford will go backwards as a result? No increase in 2020 is unreasonable with inflation and the added costs of Covid-19 planning. Was this considered sufficiently? Why was there no public comment allowed during several of the last few virtual BOF meetings? Guidance from the State of CT recommended giving the public an opportunity to voice their views during the budget process. Is allowing questions via email after all the discussions and decisions were made- really involving the community in the way the guidance was intended?

RESPONSE (from Fran Moriarty, Chairman of BOF):
Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it. The BOF voted to keep the 2020 Town mill rate frozen. Changes in BOE and BOS Budgets could be best served by making adjustment in the future as needed. All BOF meetings had a open phone line available for the public to make comments. Also all budgets were published on the Town's Website with a email available for comments.


RESIDENT SUBMISSION:
In the police budget is a line 20-241-1150 Payroll: Police Department line, with $488,458.00 requested FY 2020 - 2021. That is a $28,458.00 increase from last years approved budget, FY 2019-2020. We only have 3 full-time officers, a Lieutenant, and two Sergeants, their combined base pay should be around (Lt. $92,500.00 + 1 Sgt. $72,963.41 + 1 Sgt. $71,200.50) $236,663.91, leaving about $251,794.09 in Payroll with no full-time officers to pay. You had hired three full-time officers (Officer Gregory Ray; Officer Jose Martinez; Officer John Bremser) which were on the list of police personnel, on April 18, 2019, but they have all left Stafford employment. I do not see any advertisement to hire new police officers on the Stafford webpage. $251,663.91 in taxes equals about 31.74372% of a mil, or almost 1/3 of a mil, if I am not mistaken. In spending 1 mil equals $792,798.99. That’s $27,692,469.00 the amount raised by taxes, divided by the mil rate, 34.93. Please review your spending, that is a lot of savings, and we the tax payers should not be taxed for services that are not in place. $251,663.91 equals the base pay for four (4.059) full-time officers, at the starting level. Somebody missed the over-site of this office. Or should I say everybody missed this padded budget item.

RESPONSE (from Lieutenant Duncan):
We have hired two additional full-time Police Officers who are starting sometime in July. We have a very strong candidate for the School Resource Officer and are trying to set up an interview with the Board of Education hiring committee. The hiring of these three new police officers and the current secretary position covers the remaining $251,794.09.



RESIDENT SUBMISSION:
First, I'd like to say I appreciate that the mill rate will not increase with the proposed budget. My main concern is that taxes in CT somehow decrease, especially for seniors. I am retired and living on fixed income, and there are so many states pulling retirees out of CT. I'd like to stay. With many of the towns facilities closed, what are we doing to reduce expenses? Have there been layoffs? Has overtime gone down significantly? Will these reductions impact next years budgets? None of this seems apparent in the proposed budget.

RESPONSE (from First Selectman Mary Mitta)
I hope these answers will help you to better understand what the town is accomplishing during these troubling times. The town offers various programs to elderly residents that could help when you are on a fixed income. Please call Grace or Jenn, Stafford Senior Services, 860-684-1309 or Tami or Tracy, Assessors office, 860-684-1786. They are there to answer questions and help in any way they can.

With many of the towns facilities closed, what are we doing to reduce expenses? The Town offices are closed to the public but are still staffed and helping the public via phone, email, virtual, etc. Offices are still busy. Because of this pandemic, more people are home and wanting to get work done that they never had time to do in the past, so our Building Department is busier than ever. Social Services has continued the delivery of Meals on Wheels and has had increased activity because of greater needs for families. Family Services is also seeing an increase in counseling needs and Public Works is very busy working on the roadways. Town Hall Offices have been open throughout and have continued to do everything they always have. The Police Department is just as busy as ever.

Have there been layoffs? 3 part-time people were laid off for COVID reasons. The Summer Recreation Program was cancelled because of the pandemic, so those salaries were removed from the budget.

Has overtime gone down significantly? Overtime is as needed, mostly for public works employees for weather related events, this time of year it would be flooding, wind causing downed trees etc. You can never predict the weather! That said, the bulk of the overtime is predominately during the winter months not spring through fall.

Will these reductions impact next years budgets? Next year’s budget, as explained to the Board of Finance in the Board of Finance meetings, will show an increase because the items that were reduced or eliminated due to the pandemic will need to be reinstated next year.


RESIDENT COMMENT:
No increase in taxes that good, but how about a 5 or 10% decrease. Many people are not working and food prices are up.





Attachments:
StaffordFY20:21Budget.pdf
Resident Submitted Budget Questions & Responses.pdf

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