AP NEWS

Danbury budget approval gets thumbs down from Dems

May 8, 2019

DANBURY — Mayor Mark Boughton’s $261.5 million budget passed — though Democrats on the City Council are not happy with the city’s spending plan.

The budget was approved 14 to 7 at Tuesday’s City Council meeting with all of the Democrats opposing. The biggest critique was there wasn’t enough money for schools and cultural components, such as the Danbury Museum and Tarrywile Park.

But Mayor Mark Boughton said Wednesday “we’re very pleased that we’re able to provide a zero-tax increase to our residents. We think they need a break.”

Councilman Robert Taborsak, however, said Danbury is one of the most economically successful cities in the state and should be doing more, especially for the schools.

“It’s inadequate for the various needs in a city which I feel has the most diverse population in the state,” he said. “We can do much better and we should do much better. Personally, I’m ashamed of Danbury being 169th of the per pupil expenditures in the state.”

Councilman Duane E. Perkins proposed adding $1 million to the schools, a move that only the Democratic minority on the council supported, so it failed.

Perkins said the money could be used to help students and families with mental health issues by hiring staff or starting programs.

“We have an opportunity at least to begin to make some changes in the right direction,” Perkins said. “We’re at a critical juncture here folks.”

Boughton’s approved budget includes $5.2 million of the schools’ requested $7.7 million increase.

He said this is much higher than any of the school increases in the area, and the fact that there are seven schools of distinction in the district shows the schools have been appropriately funded. It also continues several school projects, such as the boiler replacement, freshman academy plan, and providing new roofs and a track at the high school.

During the meeting, Boughton said it was important to find the balance between giving the schools more money and what residents could afford.

All council members who spoke agreed the state should be giving the city more money, especially considering how much Danbury is contributing in sales tax.

Boughton also said the operating expenses didn’t accurately reflect the investments into the cultural parts of the budget, such as for the Danbury Museum, where the city will pave the parking lot for $46,000, or at Tarrywile Park where they will repair roofs for $50,000 to $60,000 each and replace boilers.

On Wednesday, Boughton said he thinks what was offered to these two groups was fair but that he’ll keep working with them.

Chris Setaro, the Democratic mayoral candidate, also chimed in outside of Tuesday’s meeting.

“The city’s budget has ballooned more than $100 million in the last 18 years — an increase of more than 70 percent,” Setaro said in a statement. “While this latest budget proposal doesn’t increase the mill rate, it still increases spending by more than $4.5 million. But not enough of those dollars are going to our schools, to improving our roads, or hiring more police officers.”

Boughton’s budget also includes $4.5 million for road work, including paving, fixing potholes, installing guardrails and improving drainage. And there is $2.2 million to fix the runways at the airport, which will mostly use federal money.

“This is a good, solid, measured budget that keeps Danbury moving forward,” Boughton said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345