Apr. 8—WINDSOR LOCKS — The Finance Board is proposing a $51.3 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, a 2% increase over the current year budget that would keep the tax rate the same.
The first public hearing is set for Tuesday, April 20.
The Board of Education budget of $31,380,684, the same amount as the current year, makes up 61% of the total $51,383,484 budget. The board approved a $3,946,505 budget for the Police Commission, an increase of 3.25% over the current year. Public works' budget of $1.5 million would be a 2% increase over the current budget.
The current tax rate of 25.83 mills is not set to change. A mill represents $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed value.
During a Board of Finance meeting last Tuesday, discussion focused on a plan to give non-union employees 1.5% raises.
First Selectman J. Christopher Kervick and Selectman Paul M. Harrington wanted to increase the raise by 0.5% to give them 2% raises, which would add $11,000 to the proposed budget.
Harrington said the small increase would not mean a tax increase. He said staff had to work under difficult conditions during the pandemic.
"As a business person, when we hand out raises, we look at people that go above and beyond and do extraordinary things. When you look back at the year 2020 ... what they did during this pandemic kept the Town Hall open. They deserve a 2% raise," Harrington said.
He added: "I think it's foolish to not offer up the additional $11,000 to these employees who worked their butts off during this pandemic. What message are we sending to them? They're not worth $11,000?"
Kervick agreed with Harrington.
"It's not just that non-union employees went above and beyond the call, they are paying a price for doing it. There's vacation time that hasn't been taken that they are either losing or rolling it over for a short period of time. They are also under a great deal of stress and you can get away with that for a few months, but it takes a toll after six months, eight months, or a year," Kervick said.
Kervick referenced the town of Windsor, which has a merit-based system that offers non-union town employees raises between 2.2% and 2.5%.
But Board of Finance Chairman Norman Boucher said there is much more to the equation than the $11,000.
"All through the entire budget season we have been trying to figure out the actual cost of things," Boucher said. "What about the benefits? $1.4 million towards benefits, $11,000 is small, but no one has taken into consideration the benefits aspect. We look at the cost of actually doing business."
In Windsor Locks, non-union town employees pay 15% toward the cost of benefits, while the town pays the other 85%.
The Finance Board rejected the request to make the raises 2%.
Town Clerk Scott Nolan said the decision is discouraging.
"This past presidential election I was leading the charge, distributing 2,500 absentee ballots, where I was suiting up in full PPE to make sure that no voter was disenfranchised. Normally we do around 300 absentee ballots," he said.
Financial Director Amanda Moore had other thoughts on the decision.
"I think that the employee population as a whole did what they were supposed to do like any other year, COVID-19 or not. Was it an exceptional year? Yes. Did we really change the way we did things? No."
In an interview, Kervick said the board's decision was not done to save money.
"It was done to send some kind of a message that they did not appreciate the work our employees have done, and that they don't feel like they are worthy of an increase," Kervick said.
Boucher disagreed with Kervick.
"It bothers me that he plays politics with everything. I'm not the one running for the $100,000 prize at the end of the year," Boucher said, referring to Kervick's bid for re-election this year.
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