When the Board of Finance unanimously recommended the use of cash to fund the installation of synthetic turf at 's Fontana Field, the goal was to find a way to save taxpayers $25,000 in fees and another $200,000 interest over the next ten years.
The lauded the effort this week, but made a decision not to accept the recommendation. Council members have instead voted to fund the project entirely through bonds – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for a way to save the taxpayers money, possibly even more than could be saved by using cash.
Democrat Dawn Miceli said during the recent council meeting that there have been discussions to form a “fundraising committee,” one designed to help solicit sponsorships and donations to help off-set the costs.
Details of the committee plans weren’t made public, however.
“We are not ready to announce anything just yet, but I can say there is some truth to that and we will be discussing it more at a future meeting,” Council Chairman John Dobbins said.
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Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said during Monday’s council meeting that by using bonds instead of cash, the town will have a 10-year period, or longer, to pay back the money borrowed. The town would certainly be responsible for picking up costs up front, but allowing a committee to seek funding could lead to later costs being paid through volunteer efforts rather than taxpayer money.
Christopher Palmieri, minority leader to the council, said by using bonds instead of cash, it also helps avoid any controversy that may be associated with where the cash came from, specifically a plan that would have used surplus money from the town’s Self Insurance fund.
to fund up to $920,000 in costs for the project using cash, a decision that passed by unanimous vote. Under the plan passed, $310,358 was allocated from the town’s 2011-12 contingency fund, with the remaining funding coming from a surplus in the Self Insurance fund.
The plan stirred controversy in town, angering those who said they “were paying into the system and should be refunded,” .
Leary said the surplus is commonly used for one time expenses and noted that 85 percent of the money paid into the fund comes from taxpayers and the town, not the ratepayers who benefit from the fund. Ratepayers are responsible for the remaining 15 percent and if costs exceed the town’s budget, it would be up to the town to find the difference.
“We had some hesitations and doubts that using insurance money was the right way to do it,” Palmieri said. “By using bonds, that is no longer an issue.”
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