Saunders, council develop FY23 budget draft

Published 6:24 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

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Enhanced benefits for law enforcement and ways to address a revenue shortfall in the draft budget were among the topics discussed by the Windsor Town Council as Town Manager William Saunders presented an early working draft of the town’s fiscal year 2023 budget during a March 28 work session.

Saunders spoke about giving 2% salary increases to town staff, which would cost $20,238, and providing enhanced benefits for law enforcement, which would cost $64,500, as stated in a document he shared with council members.

The document also noted a budget gap that exists at this early stage of planning. The gap with flat salaries and no enhanced benefits is $103,551, and with the 2% salary increases and enhanced benefits, the gap is $181,323.

Council members and Saunders considered different options of how to come up with the revenue needed to make these expenditures possible.

Saunders’ document stated that the budget currently includes $106,158 of unprogrammed American Rescue Plan Act funds from the first tranche that the town has received, with another tranche that will be forthcoming.

However, ARPA funds will be available for only two more years, making them ideal to be used for capital projects or one-time expenses rather than for ongoing operational items, which Mayor Glyn T. Willis addressed during the work session.

“We also need to take great caution in what we use the ARPA funds for, because while we can use the ARPA funds for the additional benefit cost for two years, it kicks the can down the road, and then we’re just essentially taking a gap issue and pushing it down the road,” he said.

Councilman Walter Bernacki noted that the town’s real estate and personal property tax rates have been unchanged for years though costs have continued to rise. With this gap continuing to grow and with next year being an assessment year, he questioned if now might be the time to look at adding a few pennies to the real estate/property tax rates to help bridge the budget gap.

He later also considered another potential avenue for funds, asking Saunders if the county could provide funds to the town to assist in costs related to the Windsor Town Center. Saunders said that if the town continues to improve the building, the county essentially agreed to split the cost of the capital improvements 50/50.

Discussion during the meeting also addressed the potential adjustment of motor vehicle license fees and the cigarette tax rates.

“This is a change in philosophies,” Willis said, addressing the discussion of adjusting tax rates and fees. “(We) probably need to consider — how do we align things and develop a strategy from a long-term standpoint so that revenues are keeping up with what our growing obligations are? And yes, we’re seeing new businesses come in and we’re getting increases in meal tax and sales tax and that sort of stuff; that is definitely a factor in it, but some of the other core things there, back to real estate tax, property tax and those sort of things, those have been maintained in a flat (rate) situation for quite some time, and I agree with you — we’re going to pay the piper at some point on that as we juggle things around through the other taxes when we can’t extend the other taxes.”

The discussion of any adjustment to tax rates or fees was a preliminary one as Saunders’ formal proposal of the FY23 budget is not scheduled to take place until April 29. Another work session on the budget and Capital Improvement Plan is possible for the latter half of April.