At the annual state of the town, Newington officials said economic growth is strong, but tough budgeting times are ahead.
During the presentation, Town Manager Tanya Lane said the last budgeting cycle saw $3.3 million in state aid cut from Newington. To offset the cuts and maintain town services, Lane said she will propose an 8.1 percent budget increase to the town council later this month.
“To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” she said. “The budget I will present contains no new positions, no new programs and no new services. But our austerity has not improved our financial situation.”
Lane said she wants to continue providing top-notch services and will only be able to do so with a significant budget increase. The increase is mainly driven by board of education costs, benefits, contractual obligations and rising utility prices.
“If we start going down that negative slope our town will suffer,” she said. “I am not pleased to be proposing it, but I do believe that facing reality is our only choice. I believe this budget is fair and reasonable and will restore us to a strong standing.”
Lane added that unemployment in town is 3.3 percent and the average household income is $90,000. The town’s debt service is $4.2 million and its financial advisers estimate that the town’s bonding power exceeds $80 million.
The program, organized by the chamber of commerce, drew dozens of town leaders and business professionals to listen to the updates on the town’s financial status and development projects.
“Newington is doing quite well,” Mayor Roy Zartarian said. “It seems commerce abhors vacant retail space in Newington. Our retail vacancy rate is about 3.4 percent and that’s the lowest in the Hartford area.”
Zartarian said there are numerous new businesses in town including the Goddard School, Del Soul Spa, Tyler English Fitness and the Five and Dime Canteen.
“Newington continues to attract manufacturing business,” Zartarian said. “EDrive Actuators moved from Elmwood and Integral Industries also moved here.”
As for new developments in town, Zartarian said work on the Hartford train line — which will run from Springfield to New Haven — is scheduled to be completed in May.
“Unfortunately we won’t be seeing a Newington station until 2022 due to state budgeting issues,” he said.
Zartarian said that plans to build a hotel on the former National Welding site on Cedar Street are moving forward and new buildings are expected to be built on the site of the old Eversource building on the Berlin Turnpike.
On the turnpike, businesses come and go, but Zartarian said there aren’t vacancies for long.
“The fact that the Sam’s Club is staying open in Newington while the other two in Connecticut are closing, speaks volumes about the market pull of the turnpike,” he said.
He added that the company that owns the former Bonefish Grill building, which has been vacant since the chain closed a year ago, is courting new tenants and looking for a national or local chain to move in.
The first town budget meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in town hall.