STRATFORD, Conn. — With the town of Stratford operating with a $5.1 million budget deficit, several incoming Town Council members are calling for a hiring freeze and a delay in new capital improvement projects, according to Town Council-Elect Mark Dumas.
Dumas, a Republican who will represent the 2nd District, said addressing the budget hole needs to start the moment they take office.
The first meeting of the new Town Council is Monday, Dec. 14, and Dumas said the incoming Council needs to reassess the town's budget priorities.
Written by Dumas, the proposed hiring freeze ordinance is co-sponsored by fellow incoming Republican Councilors Mitzi Antezzo, Vincent Chase, and Alan Llewelyn. Democratic Councilor-elect Tina Manus has also said that she will co-sponsor the proposed ordinance.
The hiring freeze would not apply to the Board of Education and would allow for exceptions for positions funded by state or federal grants, or if the overtime costs created by a vacancy would offset savings, Dumas said.
Under the proposal, exceptions would need approval of the Town Council.
Stratford's budget deficit was created when voters last month rejected the proposed sale of the town's sewer system to the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority. The sale would have added $16 million to the town's general fund, with $5 million coming from Stratford's sewer system reserve fund.
Dumas, an attorney who specializes in labor and employment law, said savings would be lost if a freeze is not implemented quickly. "Once the money is spent, you can't get it back," he said.
With only six months left in the current fiscal year, Dumas wants the Town Council to address the deficit during its first meeting, which traditionally is limited to honoring outgoing officials and swearing in newly elected members.
"I don't think the voters care about ceremonies," said Dumas. "What they really care about is that their taxes are too high and the longer that the new Council waits to address this deficit, the harder it will be to fix without raising taxes."
Manus said the hiring freeze is necessary to give the Council time to fix the budget with public input. "This initiative ensures a collective and thoughtful approach to hiring and spending in our town," she said.