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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