NEW FAIRFIELD – At a virtual meeting of the Board of Finance on October 21, the Board voted to approve the use of $625,540.89 of the 2019-2020 education budget surplus. It also heard a presentation from the Candlewood Lake Authority on the need for the purchase of two new patrol boats before voting to approve funding.
At a special meeting the previous night, the Board of Selectmen had voted to make up to $50,000 available for the purchase of two patrol boats, contingent upon a likewise commitment from Brookfield, New Milford, Danbury, and Sherman. The CLA has committed to contribute up to $50,000 of the overall $300,000 price tag. It is possible that FirstLight will also be contributing funds. Funds would come from an existing municipal water system fund that is being retired upon the upcoming sale of the town’s water system to Aquarion.
The matter was brought before the Board of Finance for its review and approval by a delegation from the Candlewood Lake Authority. New Fairfield Delegate Joan Archer made a public safety presentation to the Board. Ms. Archer noted that since 2017, the number of boats on the lake has increased roughly 10%.
She described the role the CLA Marine Patrol plays in keeping the lake safe and the strain the increase in traffic has put on the Patrol’s resources, namely its patrol boats. Of the four existing patrol boats, two have had to be removed from service this season as the increased wear and tear has rendered them unfit for service.
Ms. Archer noted that four vessels on the lake would enable the Marine Patrol to establish safety checkpoints, terminate voyages for safety/overloading violations, and inform boaters of any restrictions such as island closures.
In 2021, she said, the CLAMP needs 4 boats to adequately patrol the lake. The CLA is currently looking to purchase two commercial boats at $150,000 each.
The Board stressed the CLA should be building an adequate reserve. Board Member Anthony Yorio expressed concern that planning going forward must be done to adequately fund replacement of the Patrol’s two existing vessels. Mr. Yorio stressed that the CLA must come up with an adequate capital replacement plan to cover the anticipated cost of the boats.
After further discussion, the Board voted to approve the appropriation 4 to 2 with Board Members Jane Landers and Cheryl Reedy voting against.
The Board then turned its discussion to the Board of Education’s request to appropriate $625,540.89 from the 2019-2020 fiscal year’s operating budget surplus.
Board Chair Wes Marsh made a motion to approve $625,540.89 for COVID-19-related or special education expenditures.
Once those needs are satisfied, the motion stated that any remaining funds could only be used for capital expenditures.
Director of Budget & Operations Dr. Richard Sanzo gave an update on anticipated Covid-19- related costs. He spoke about the district’s need to use the surplus to offset expenses incurred and anticipated due to the steps taken to hold in person and remote classes safely during the pandemic. Some expenses he outlined were additional staffing expenses, cleaning and custodial expenses, and increased electric costs due to running the ventilation system for longer periods of time before and after classes. While the district anticipates some reimbursement from both the State and FEMA, the total is unknown at this point in time as are any additional expenses as the pandemic continues.
At last month’s BoF meeting, Dr. Sanzo had estimated total Covid-19-related costs for the school year would be $1.7 million. After realizing some unanticipated savings, he has downgraded that estimate to $1.4 million. He stressed any estimate is still tentative depending on additional costs that may arise as well as any aid that may be received through grants or state and federal aid. At the moment, he said, the District still anticipates a deficit for the year of approximately $370,000.
The next regular mtg. of the BOF will be held Nov. 18, 7:30pm.
By Greg Slomba