Council Passes $110 Million Overall Budget
NEWINGTON - A $110.08 million budget, up from last year’s $106 million, has been passed by the Newington Town Council.

       The Council approved the budget, which includes a 2.9 percent expenditure increase for the Board of Education, at its April 8 meeting. The school side of the final figure is $68.04 million, while town government operations will cost $32.32 million.

       The final expenditure brings the mill rate up to 34.77, with just over $87 million to be raised in taxes.

       The Board of Education is getting slightly more than the 2.7 percent that Town Manager Salomone had originally budgeted, courtesy of an additional $140,000 inserted in later meetings. Superintendent of Schools Bill Collins and Board of Education members recently sat down to pass a slew of expenditure-reducing motions that included the deferment of $192,174 for digital arts labs in the middle schools and $100,000 for a replacement school bus.

       One of the suggestions made during the Council’s second to last budget meeting was to transfer $100,000 from the Garfield Street Capital Improvement Program (CIP) fund to the Board of Education’s CIP fund in order to finance the purchase of the school bus, but the motion failed.

       The Board had previously moved the bus funds out of CIP, and Republicans proposed that they shift it back over. The $100,000 transfer from the Garfield fund would cover that and leave the other money for the Board to use at its discretion, said Councilor David Nagel.

       Collins and members of the Board of Education had been fielding comments from concerned residents regarding a proposal to reduce the frequency of the middle school gifted program--an item that was saved anyway through deferring the $71,911 hiring of a high school-level instructional coach.

       On March 25, the Council took $100,000 out of the Garfield CIP fund, currently at $650,000, as part of a series of measures to reduce the amount of the budget to be raised by taxes. Mayor Stephen Woods and other councilors in the Democratic majority have been reluctant to take out more because although the street will probably not be aligned due to the Town Hall Renovation Project building committee’s abandoning of plans for a new entrance to Town Hall, the remaining money can be utilized for parking expansion and traffic calming measures, they said.

       “My contention was [because] the principle reason for wanting to realign Garfield Street was to create space for parking,” said Deputy Mayor Clarke Castelle after the meeting.

       The town will need to discuss that with the Newington Public Library, which owns the land, but Woods has expressed optimism as to whether they can come to an agreement.

       But since there are no contracts for work on Garfield Street and the parking lots between Town Hall and the public library, the Council does not know for sure how much funding it needs for the job, Nagel said after the meeting.

       “Here you are with $650,000 and you’re not straightening the street,” he said. “We figured there could be more money [in the account] than what was needed.”