There was some debate following the Town Council vote approving a revised $81.26 million budget proposal for 2013-14 Monday night. Town Councilman Frank Leito, a Republican, criticized two Democrats, Nick Kapoor and Dee Dee Martin, for not offering any compromises in workshops before opposing the budget.
It should be noted that Ray Knapp, the other Democrat on the Town Council, voted in favor of the budget, which passed 7-2.
On Tuesday morning, Kapoor wrote an email further explaining he and Martin's reasons for voting against the proposal.
"The fact is, once again, the Democrats were blindsided by the Republican supermajority," he said. "They caucused, decided which cuts to make and that was it — as you will note, many of the motions in the workshop were along party lines.
"Our visions differ as to where we see Monroe headed, but to accuse the Democrats of not compromising is a political ploy. If the Republicans would have shared their cuts with us, even a few hours before hand, I believe we could have had a better, more pointed discussion in our workshop. I would like to work with the Republicans and on certain issues have, but being in the minority, I can only do so much. Working together is a two way street."
There was agreement between the parties on some of the cuts, but a number of times Kapoor and Martin strongly disagreed. Prior to Monday night's workshop, Republicans on the council, who hold a 6-3 majority, caucused and Town Councilman Tony Unger then made motions of their proposed budget revisions at the workshop. Occasionally, council Democrats made motions of their own.
Here are some of the motions that sparked the strongest disagreements:
A $1,000 reduction in the request for salary increases for assistants to the registrars in the Registrar of Voters Office was approved along party lines 6-3.
A $5,000 cut in the request for Monroe Senior Center programs passed 7-2, with Martin and Kapoor against it.
A reduction of $10,000 in proposed maintenance for the senior center to $5,000 passed along party lines 6-3.
A $90,000 reduction for insurance. Kapoor agreed there should be a reduction, but didn't think it should be that high. Martin agreed, but they were on the short end of a 7-2 vote approving the cut.
A proposal to make the part-time Building Department office assistant full time, adding $18,077 to the budget, was taken out after a 6-3 vote along party lines.
A motion to cut $78,551 to add two new police dispatchers passed in a 6-3 vote along party lines. Republicans want to see how well dispatchers work in the new communication center before adding head count and Democrats thought the additions were needed now.
Republicans said the Monroe, Stevenson and Stepney fire departments will still receive good increases with a $2,000 cut from each department's request. Democrats disagreed, and the cuts passed along party lines 6-3.
A new part-time position for the Department of Public Works ($15,977) was cut along party lines 6-3.
A $10,000 request for mental health counselling was taken out of Social Services by a 6-3 vote along party lines. Kapoor said he was shocked by this motion in light of how this has become an issue after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Unger said the Trumbull Monroe Health District could help in this area and the town could make referrals.
Part-time salary increases for library employees was cut by $5,000, though enough was left in for a raise from $10.92 per hour to $12 per hour. Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, a Republican, went on record saying she believed it was too low, before she supported the reduction. Kapoor and Martin opposed it.
Much of a $66,863 reduction to Parks & Recreation was opposed by Democrats, though there was agreement on a portion of it, eliminating a tennis court monitor for instance.
The creation of a "rolling stock" account with $73,500 borrowed in the first year to replace town vehicles — with the town borrowing from itself and paying it back with no interest — passed 6-3 along party lines. Democrats wanted more discussion, Republicans said there was enough in a previous workshop, and Democrats countered that real numbers were not used in the discussion.
There was agreement to remove funding for a four-wheel drive vehicle for the first selectman, which council members agreed is not needed. But council Democrats do not like the fact that the first selectman has discretion over how the account is spent, while Republicans trust him to honor what is approved at budget time.