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Communication Breakdown Among New Fairfield BOE Members, Administration at March 2 Meeting
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The Board of Selectmen and New Fairfield schools presented their proposed 2017-2018 fiscal year budgets to the Board of Finance and the public on March 4.

Prior to the presentations, BOF Chair Wes Marsh delivered a commentary on Governor Malloy’s proposed state budget, which will greatly affect the budgets of New Fairfield and other smaller Connecticut towns this year.

If the Governor’s proposed budget is passed in June, it could mean as much as a $4.5 million cut in funding to the Town. Mr. Marsh stated that the Town could make up the shortfall either by drastically raising the tax rate (potentially as much as 10% worst case, compared to 0.5% last year), dramatically cutting the town and school budgets, or a less drastic combination of both. He noted that hard decisions may have to be made if the Governor’s budget is approved.

First Selectman Susan Chapman and Selectman Mike Gill presented the municipal budget proposal. Overall, the total amount of the 2017-18 budget is $9,645,297, a decrease of 0.69% from the current fiscal year. As Ms. Chapman noted, it is not a budget that will move the Town forward, but it is a necessity given the climate in Hartford.

The biggest proposed cut to the municipal budget, $563,066, were for road repairs. Cutting back the scale of the town’s road paving program would mean paving only 3.7 miles of road as opposed to the normal 6 to 8 miles of road paved or repaired annually. BOF members John Hodge and Jane Landers voiced concern that one of the biggest services the Town provides would have to be cut. Ms. Chapman noted that the worst of the roads scheduled for repair would be addressed this year, but that those scheduled to be repaved this year that were in the best shape would have to be pushed off until next year.

Both the BOF and the Selectmen agreed that this was merely a band aid solution for this year and that the eight year repair program would have to be reworked going forward in light of the new State aid budget reality. Mr. Hodge also suggested using the Capital Road Reserve Fund to buy some time until a go-forward strategy could be devised.

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Alicia Roy and her administration team presented the New Fairfield school budget. The proposed budget for 2017-18 is $42,553,047, an increase of 2.54%. Dr. Roy began the presentation by outlining the school district’s recent achievements. These included Meeting House Hill School being named a PBIS Banner School by the State Education Resource Center of Connecticut, the highest high school graduation rate (99.1%) in the area, and 91% of the Class of 2016 went on to attend college.

The district anticipates State, Federal and private grants this year to total $726,852. The State grants are not part of the Governor’s proposed budget funding cuts. It also anticipates $9,338 in monetary and $991 in in-kind donations from local organizations.

The total non-payroll portion of the proposed budget shows an increase of 3.27% over last year’s budget to $8,338,162. Non-payroll includes cost of maintaining buildings and grounds, interscholastic athletics, curriculum and programs and other operating expenses.

The payroll and benefits portion of the proposed budget would increase 3.76% to $25,802,270. Payroll and benefits expense account for approximately 76.5% of the overall proposed budget. Health insurance costs and anticipated GASB 45 pension contributions will decrease $26,727 or 0.49% to $5,473,546. Dr. Roy noted that the pension for non-certified employees is fully funded.

An overview of the Board of Education’s Recommended Budget can be found here.

The Board of Selectman budget can be found here.

By Greg Slomba