The Board of Finance held a virtual meeting April 8 to discuss the Governor’s recent executive orders, the timeline to finalize the 2020-21 fiscal year education and municipal budgets, receive public comment, and set a mil rate. There was also an update on the school building projects and the potential acquisition of 78 Gillotti Road property.
The Board received an update from First Selectman Pat Del Monaco on the most recent of the Governor’s Executive Orders. She noted that one order provided property tax relief options for residents and businesses. Towns will have to offer either a property tax deferment or a low interest rate program. In order to qualify, taxpayers must show that they have lost at least 20% of their income. The Town must offer at least one of the two options by April 25. She also said there was a suspension of the reapplication filing requirement for elderly tax credit.
The Governor also has suspended the in-person voting requirements for critical and time-sensitive municipal fiscal deadlines, including the need to hold a town meeting for a special appropriation if one was normally required.
Among the other orders Ms. Del Monaco reviewed was an order halting all short term rentals of 31 days or less, except in certain cases, such as first responders that need to be isolated or a family member that needs isolation from someone with Covid-19.
The Board then discussed budget approval timeline. Ms. Del Monaco stated that the Town’s attorney had confirmed that the extended deadline to have a finalized budget is June 15.
Board Chair Wes Marsh noted that the Board of Selectmen would have to authorize the Board of Finance to finalize the budget and set the mil rate at a meeting prior to June 15, and the Board of Finance would then have to meet to vote on the final budget.
Ms. Del Monaco said that the BOS would have to consider how the tax deferment option would factor into the process. She noted that the BOS would be discussing options at its April 13 meeting. She said the deferral is only good for taxes due July 1, meaning that the mailing of tax bills could not be delayed until August as had been suggested in a previous meeting.
Town Treasurer and Finance Director Ed Sbordone reviewed the bond sale that had been conducted the previous day. He said the Town had six bidders with interest rates ranging from 2.8% to 2.1% on the $8 million 20-year term bond issue. The Town accepted the 2.1% bid, which was lower than anticipated. This will save the Town an extra $13,000 in interest payment over the life of the bond. This would decrease the overall proposed budget increase from 2.97% to 2.94%. He said the Town will receive the funds on April 21.
Discussion turned to the amount of the overall budget increase and that the Boards may need to reduce their budgets further due to the financial issues that residents are faced with. Board Member Cheryl Reedy said she would like information from the BOE and BOS as to how the current economic climate has affected residents.
Board Chair Wes Marsh said that he felt a 2.94% increase was as low as he was willing to go. Most of the Board felt the current proposed budget was okay as things stood currently, but that the BOE or BOS should be prepared to cut more if the situation were to change in the next month or so.
Board Member Anthony Yorio reported on the recent Public Building Committee meeting. Mr. Yorio, who also sits on the PBC, reviewed the three possible options the PBC is currently considering. One of the options, which requires the purchase and incorporation of the 78 Gillotti Road property, he felt offered the best option. The initial layout, Mr. Yorio said, does not incorporate the property and would require the relocation of three existing wells, rebuilding of two practice fields and regrading of slopes and the existing access road, as well as a wetlands issue. The total cost would be $2.2 million. This option and the associated costs had been accounted for in the project budget, he said.
The option that requires the $325,000 purchase of the Gillotti Road property, Mr. Yorio noted, would free up those $2.2 million in funds to be used in other areas of the project such as better landscaping and/or parking, or a better building layout. He said that he did not want to see the taxpayers have to lay out $325,000 more than they had already voted on.
With this in mind, Mr. Yorio said, the PBC had voted to recommend the purchase of 78 Gillotti Road to the Board of Selectmen. However, the PBC also voted to reduce the project budget by $452,772, which would yield a net debt service savings (after the State’s contribution to the project) of $325,000. He also asked the other PBC members to take an additional $547,228 and move it into the project contingency. Those two actions, he said, would effectively take $1 million out of the construction budget and use it for the design option that incorporates use of the 78 Gillotti Road property and eliminates the $2.2 million needed for site improvements in the original plan. This, Mr. Yorio said, would result in an overall savings of approximately $325,000 less than the original referendum figure approved by the voters.
Mr. Marsh noted that earlier in the evening, the Board of Education had met and voted to recommend the purchase of the 78 Gillotti Road property to the Board of Selectmen. If the BOS were to vote to approve the purchase, he said, the matter would then go before the Board of Finance for a final vote.
An overview of the Board of Education’s Recommended Budget can be found by going to www.newfairfield.org and clicking “About New Fairfield” then “New Fairfield Public Schools”, and scrolling down to “2020-2021 Proposed Budget”.
The Board of Selectman budget can be found at www.newfairfield.org and clicking “Municipal Budget”.
Public input at meetings is encouraged to give New Fairfield’s Boards as much feedback as possible on the proposed budgets.
The Board of Finance will be holding budget meetings every Wednesday in April & May at 7:30pm at https://us04web.zoom.us/j/237333101 the meeting call in number is 1-929-205-6099.