Mark your calendars, put reminder alarms on your phone, and tack post-it notes all over your house – the budget vote is likely to be Saturday, May 5 from 10am to 8pm. You, the town’s legislative body, have the yearly responsibility to vote for (or against) our Municipal & Education Budgets. While budgets themselves are only numbers, these budgets represent all the work that will be done by our town and schools. Every dollar in the budget is directly related to a service provided to residents and students. Our budget pays for things like paving our roads, police officers & School Resource Officers (SROs), teachers, textbooks, library programs, and senior services – and that’s to name just a few.
The result of this vote determines two important things: 1) The funding for our School System and Town Government so they can operate, and 2) our property tax rate, also called the mill rate.
The Board of Education, the Board of Selectmen, and the Board of Finance, along with staff, public officials, educators and administrators, have worked very hard to provide a budget that gives taxpayers the right balance of services while keeping costs as low as possible. You can see the budget at https://tinyurl.com/NFRecommendedBudget1819 and a paper is available at the Library.
We just can’t do a full budget review in one column, so if you have any questions on budget details, please reach out to the Board of Finance (BOF@newfairfield.org) and we will be happy to help. We cannot answer questions on Facebook, so please email.
Here are some key points for you to consider in evaluating the proposed budget:
- What does this mean for my tax bill?
- The property tax rate impact of the budget is an increase of 2.55%. For comparison, the tax rate increase this year was 3.97%.
- So, what does that mean in dollars and cents? If this budget passes, the property tax bills will increase by $76 for every $100,000 of assessed value. So, if your home is assessed at $250,000 (that’s not the market value – that’s the assessed value, which is only 70% of market value as of the last assessment) the property taxes for the year will be $190 higher than this year.
- What does that 2.55% increase pay for? The boards have listened to our residents and worked hard to budget for services that are needed and valuable while still keeping the cost to taxpayers as low as possible.
- Roads – This year because of the state budget crisis, the BOS removed all funds for road paving and repair, and none of the regular yearly work was done. This budget restores the normal level of funding for road paving and repair.
- Preliminary School Safety Improvements – Pending the results of a complete School Safety Audit, the town budgeted two additional School Resource Officers (SROs) for the district. Further initiatives may be coming later this year that are not part of this budget.
- Senior Services – Increased services for senior citizens through the department of social services in the form of counseling and additional programs.
- Emergency Health & Safety – Our town will now have 24/7 paramedic coverage provided by Danbury Hospital to support our local EMT volunteers.
- New Teachers & Coaches – 1 math teacher, 2 STEM coaches, 1 6th grade teacher and 1 special education life skills teacher are to be hired for the 2018/2019 school year.
- Educational Improvements – Curriculum development, team-based structures, and professional development for educators. These build on progress already underway.
- How did the boards keep taxes down?
- Reducing budgeted Medical Insurance Costs by $192,332 from original broker recommendation. This was based on our understanding of our town’s historical medical insurance expenses, and being willing to take the small risk of dipping into the Medical Reserve Fund.
- Reducing Other Post Employment Benefits (retiree health insurance) contributions by $257,035 from originally proposed budgets. The decision was made to fund contributions from the Medical Fund and not the Operating Budget.
- Aggressively challenging state funding assumptions issued by Hartford lawmakers. Basically, we assume we will not have funding cut as much as Hartford says we will. Specifically we estimate we will receive only 25% of the currently proposed reduction in state revenue, which restored $497,851 of revenue to the budget.
So remember these two things: First, VOTE SATURDAY, MAY 5TH 10AM to 8PM and make sure to get all your neighbors, friends and family to the polls too! Second, the budgets may looks like numbers, but they are actually services and education for all town residents and students.
Please vote “Yes” for both budgets!