West Hartford Town Council Will Use Surplus to Maintain Fund Balance, Purchase Equipment

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Included in the resolution the Town Council approved Tuesday night was the transfer of surplus funds to purchase approximately $1 million in vehicles and other equipment.

By Ronni Newton

Surplus funds will be used to purchase an Advanced Life Support vehicle for the West Hartford Fire Department, several other fire department vehicles, police department vehicles, and other equipment following the Town Council approval of a resolution Tuesday night, by a 6-3 vote along party lines, to allocate surplus from the FY2019 budget.

Town CFO Peter Privitera said that the surplus from FY2019 totaled about $4.6 million.

About $1.1 million in surplus was additional ECS funding approved by the state after West Hartford adopted its budget. A tax collection rate of 99.3 percent resulted in an extra $672,000, interest income was $1.1 million higher than expected, and payroll savings from the Board of Education totaled about $1.1 million. The remainder of the savings included miscellaneous adjustments within departments – and the unexpected receipt of a check from FEMA for $217,000 related to reimbursement for expenses from the October 2011 snowstorm.

Use of the surplus will mitigate potential increases in the FY2021 budget, Privitera said, through allocation of $950,000 to the Debt Service Fund and $300,000 to the Utility Services Fund.

Also recommended was an additional $300,000 to the Utility Services Fund to offset the cost of a part-time energy analyst over the next three or four years plus a contractor’s work reviewing and disseminating utility bills to various departments. The town’s fund balance ratio will remain at 9 percent by allowing $653,311 to be held as surplus, and $1,029,791 will be allocated to purchase vehicles and other equipment through the Capital Non-Recurring Expenditure Fund (CNRE).

Town Manager Matt Hart said that about $1.5 million had been requested for equipment purchase by department directors during the budget review process, but he deferred those purchases pending available surplus and ultimately approved about $1 million of their requests.

The ALS Intercept vehicle that the fire department will purchase, for roughly $67,000, will allow two members of the department at a time to respond to medical-only calls without the need to use an engine or quint, Hart said. The fire department is also purchasing a training vehicle that can be used as a back-up ALS Intercept, and a Chevy Tahoe replacing a 2002 Taurus as the chief’s vehicle.

The police department will obtain three hybrid Ford Utility patrol vehicles – which should significantly save fuel costs when idling – as well as a Chevy Tahoe for the chief, a Dodge Durango for the Traffic Division, and two Durangos for the Detective Division.

Other non-vehicle equipment expenditures will include the replacement of out-of-warranty tasers, ballistic vests, three new snowplows, asset and vehicle maintenance software, a tractor for the Rockledge Golf Course, and playground equipment.

The balance of the CNRE Fund will be about $2.6 million following the allocations.

It’s “always good to have a surplus rather than a deficit,” said Minority Leader Chris Barnes, who along with Republicans Chris Williams and Mary Fay voted against the resolution allocating the surplus. He said that what bothered him was the amount of the surplus. “I think how close we possibly could be to getting to a zero budget.” he said.

Williams asked Hart to clarify the planned use for the fire department’s ALS vehicle, and noted that as he has said on multiple occasions in the past, he is not a supporter of the paramedic program.

Mayor Shari Cantor noted that the Board of Education’s surplus is only half of 1 percent, and overall the surplus is a “a 1.3 percent swing.” The town doesn’t know for sure what the state budget will be when it adopts a budget, and interest rates are also an unknown.

Cantor, along with Democrats Beth Kerrigan, Leon Davidoff, Liam Sweeney, Dallas Dodge, and Ben Wenograd approved the resolution.

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  • Why don’t we spend $600,000 on new equipment and use the remaining 4,000,000 for the under funded pension fund. We have a pension fund that is only about 40% funded and is one of The lowest funded plans in the state. When Chris Droney was Mayor it was over funded by 25%. Mayor Droney was a Democrat and he saw the importance of funding the pension fund. Since that time the democrat’s That have come after him have not funded the account and because of that we have one of the lowest funded plans in the state.

  • Ugh, respectfully disagree , Bill. A surplus means that the populace was overtaxed. Send the money back into the hands of the rightful owners of the money. Underfunded pensions are, unfortunately, the result of uneconomic promises to largely retired workforces. The trend toward surplus-funded to underfunded is nationwide in scope. Time to re-work contracts, not throw more private sector dollars at the problem.

  • I’ve got an idea… How ‘bout returning the “surplus” funds to the rightful owners of said funds — the taxpayers, instead of confiscating $$ that isn’t yours ?? Or, rainy day the funds to be applied to next year. Was that ever a consideration ?? No, we’d rather just SPEND, SPEND, SPEND without any thought to reducing the tax burden. When are the ppl of WH gonna wake up and vote out all these spendthrifts and demand fiscal discipline ?

  • The golf course is supposed to be self sufficient and supported fully by greens fees. As such, purchasing golf course equipment with tax dollars is inappropriate.

    Also, there are people who have moved away, passed on, etc. who have been overtaxed and cannot reclaim their money. The town should take this more seriously and not just pass inflated budgets without reducing subsequent ones.

  • Go Dems. Spend, Spend, Spend. New SUVs. What happened to used surplus vehicles for non emergency personnel. Has anyone looked at the tons of pot holes we still have even on the main venues in town? And the poor condition on many other roads. And the way the town floods when we have a heavy rain. I know, small potatoes!

    • Funniest part of this article is the author is almost bragging about it.
      Wouldn’t you love to pull these asset purchase requests and read the business cases submitted and approved? Would make for comical reading.

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