NEWINGTON - There was quite a showing at the final public hearing on the townâ€™s 2018-19 budget, where several causes emerged as valuable to residents during this especially challenging fiscal year.
The Town Council has been working to finalize its $118.8 million tentative budget, which would impose a $327 tax increase on the average Newington homeowner. At the same time councilors are being urged to protect Newington schools and impactful groups like Newington Community Television (NCTV).
Town government operations total $36.7 million, a 4 percent increase over last yearâ€™s allotment. The Board of Educationâ€™s request has been cut by $750,000, which still represents a 3.5 percent increase, totaling $72.85 million.
Well over a dozen people spoke on behalf of NCTV, which provides live and on-demand programming on the local television network and online, including film coverage of events, school and civic activities and town meetings. The non-profit organization was just selected as the townâ€™s Volunteer of the Year.
NCTV Secretary Sandy Austin-Goldstein called her group â€śNewingtonâ€™s photo albumâ€ť - requesting its budget be restored after it was cut by two-thirds in the town managerâ€™s proposal.
â€śWe protect and preserve memories made at events and things going on in town,â€ť she pointed out.
Many others went on to share the role the resource plays in their lives, particularly when they canâ€™t attend a meeting or event in person.
â€śTheyâ€™re all volunteers, just like the council,â€ť said Sue Mazzoccoli, the widow of former mayor Don Mazzoccoli, who died in 2016 after a long battle with ALS.
Her comments were made over the phone, making it entirely possible she had been watching the meeting on the cable access network.
â€śI love NCTV,â€ť Mazzoccoli added. â€śIt gives access and transparency to town government.â€ť
Former town councilor Dave Nagel and his wife, Jerilyn, both submitted letters that were read into the record, also supporting the organization.
â€śEquipment replacement and updates are vital to keeping NCTV on the air,â€ť Dave wrote.
Others backed the BOE, which is working to meet school needs while grappling with state-mandated funding requirements and contractual obligations.
â€śMy dream scenario is that the council approves the Board of Edâ€™s budget request unanimously,â€ť Neil Ryan said. â€śHowever, Iâ€™m not holding my breath.â€ť
Ryan added that he would consider any resulting tax increase â€śan investment in my town and money well spent.â€ť
Several people addressed the upcoming renovation to Newington Town Hall, which voters approved last fall. Although town officials promised it wouldnâ€™t raise taxes, the multi-million-dollar project now seems more overwhelming than ever, they told councilors.
â€śYou canâ€™t take on a project that size and scope and expect it not to have an impact on taxes,â€ť William Lanza said.
Both political parties announced their decisions to hold off on revising funding allotments.
â€śWe want to take time to digest the comments, evaluate them and make the right decisions,â€ť Majority Leader Carol Anest explained. â€śStay tuned.â€ť
Changes will be proposed and voted on April 16, when the council finalizes the budget and sets a new mill rate.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.