Litchfield’s Board of Selectmen will bring a proposed municipal budget calling for an increase in spending of 5.71 percent for 2015-16 to the Board of Finance for consideration.
Selectmen on Tuesday voted 4-1 to adopt the spending plan of $9,134,384 and forward it to the finance board. First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. and Selectmen Diane Knox, Paul Parsons and Jonathan Torrant voted to adopt the budget. Jeffrey Zullo cast the dissenting vote.
The proposal is $493,653 higher than the current municipal budget of $8,640,731 but, according to Paul, is a package that would allow the town to maintain its current level of services.
Although Paul said he is not thrilled with the proposed increase, he said the spending plan has no fluff in it. A large chunk of the increase, he noted, is for public works spending targeting much-needed improvements to roads and other infrastructure.
"Our budget increases the past few years have been 1 percent or 2 percent, but we can’t continue to operate that way because our infrastructure is going to fall apart," Paul said. "I’d like to cut the (proposed) increase in half, but honestly I can’t find anything to cut. I feel good about what we’re proposing."
Paul and public works Director Jack Healy both said funding budgeted for public works would allow the department to function properly and address longstanding issues involving roads and infrastructure.
Under the proposed budget, $1,190,916 is for public works operations, an increase of $95,765. Highway work is budgeted at $802,450, an increase of $192,000,
Zullo called the proposed budget increase excessive and said he couldn’t support bringing it to the finance board. Zullo proposed lowering the proposed increase to 3 percent, which would require a cut of $234,000, but received no support.
"You can’t keep piling it on," Zullo said. "At some point we have to say we need to live tighter. This increase is beyond the means of the town."
Zullo added that the proposed increase would be unacceptable to taxpayers living on fixed incomes.
"We have to reduce it to a level that’s more amenable to everyone," Zullo said. "How are we going to go to the public and justify (the increase)."
Knox and Torrant, too, expressed concern about the proposed increase but said it would be difficult to identify ways to reduce it.
"I’m not particularly happy, but I don’t see where we have many choices," Torrant said.