CORONAVIRUS/SCHOOL PROJECT UPDATE
April 10, 2020
A Selectman’s View
April 16, 2020

Governor Lamont’s recent Executive Order 7i (https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Office-of-the-Governor/Executive-Orders/Lamont-Executive-Orders/Executive-Order-No-7I.pdf – See specifically #13.) alters the usual budget process for towns such as New Fairfield this year. The Governor’s order requires that the Selectmen authorize the Board of Finance to adopt a budget and set a mil rate for the town on its own, without an annual town meeting and without a machine vote on the budget.  Yes, you read that correctly!!! This year there will be no taxpayer vote on the budget. The Board of Finance will set the budget and the mil rate. (Unless the Executive Order is lifted before then.)

New Fairfield’s Boards of Selectmen, Education, and Finance all understand that this is a BIG change from our usual budget process and one that many taxpayers may not be happy with, but we all fully support its intent – to maintain social distancing and keep people as safe as possible from COVID-19. The Governor’s order is not a suggestion or recommendation, it is required for all towns in Connecticut. This change was made to avoid the gathering of people at polling places and to avoid putting poll workers (most of whom are seniors) at risk during the voting process.

Delaying the normal budget-making process may give time for some things to be sorted out. Even then, we may not have all the answers. But we will likely have a clearer picture in June than we do now of:

  • how long social-distancing and non-essential business shut-downs will last;
  • how deep the financial repercussions from the many business shut-downs will be;
  • what the state’s priorities are concerning school construction bonding for next year;
  • the availability of possible State and/or federal financial assistance to towns; and
  • whether the State will change its estimated aid to municipalities for next year.

To that end, the Board of Finance has changed its previously published budget calendar. The Board will meet virtually on Zoom every Wednesday at 7:30 pm during the months of April and May to assess the current situation, to discuss additional changes in the proposed budgets, and, most importantly, to listen to public comment on the budget. The plan now is to mark-up the budget in early May, publish that budget in the Town Tribune and online around mid-May, get additional public input after that and make any additional needed changes to the budget by late May, publish those changes online, and finally to adopt the budget and set the mil rate in early to mid-June. This is our current plan, but things are changing very rapidly right now as the State grapples with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We ask that you bear with us and keep checking the town website and the Town Tribune for the most up to date information.

According to Tax Collector Kerrie Greening, barring some unforeseen calamity, her office should be able to get tax bills printed and out on time if the Board of Finance adopts a budget and sets the mil rate in early June.

At prior meetings the Finance Board whittled the budget requests down from a requested 4.79% tax increase to a proposed 2.97% increase, with the caveat that it might have to go lower still, depending on the economic situation we face. You can view the requested budget each time changes are made by looking at the Board of Finance agenda packet online at least 24 hours before each meeting.

To comment on the budget and what you want the Board of Finance to do, e-mail us at BOF@newfairfield.org or join our virtual meetings either online or by telephone and speak during the two public comment sessions we have at every meeting. Links and phone numbers are available through the town website at www.newfairfield.org. To join a virtual meeting, click the large blue box on the right hand side of the homepage that says Town Virtual Meetings then click the Zoom link for the meeting you want to hear or participate in. To find an agenda, click on the Meetings button at the top of the page, click on Board of Finance in the list of Boards and Commissions, and then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the date of the meeting.

We very much need and welcome your input into this unusual budget process we are facing this year. Stay home and stay safe and let us hear from you either by email or online with all the extra time you may find you have now!