Throughout the month of March, the Board of Finance has been meeting weekly to discuss the 2019/2020 Municipal and Board of Education budgets. The Board asked for reductions in both budgets, and the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted on reductions to the proposed municipal budget on March 14. The municipal budget determines how the town distributes tax dollars to fund the services provided to residents. Services such as School Resource Officers (SROs) the police department, fire department, EMT and Paramedic services, bridge, drainage and road repair and paving, maintenance of town buildings and parks, social services, senior center programs and the public library are funded by the municipal budget. The BOS compiles the budget based upon meetings with each department head. These knowledgeable employees use prior years’ experience, professional knowledge and upcoming projects to estimate funding required for their department in the next year. This year, the BOS held 12 public Budget Workshops to gather this information, discuss the requests and make adjustments to the budget.
The BOS reduced the proposed budget by deferring several capital projects and purchases to future years, and by identifying alternative sources of funding for other necessary capital expenditures. The Board was able to complete funding for the Saw Mill Bridge project through the Town’s “Unappropriated Capital and Non-Recurring” fund, eliminating the need to fund the project through next year’s budget. This fund’s balance accrues as capital projects are completed under budget and may be used only for new capital projects. This appropriation will reduce the proposed budget by $280,000. The Fire Department identified a grant for funding an equipment purchase totaling $5,000, and a new contract with Danbury Hospital will eliminate the need to purchase a new Paramedic Fly Car, reducing the budget by an additional $50,000. The BOS also deferred capital purchases and projects totaling $145,500, reducing the proposed budget by a total of $480,000.
School Safety, road and drainage repair, adequate long term planning and preventive maintenance are the priorities in the proposed municipal budget. With the reductions discussed above, the total proposed increase in the $12.1 million municipal budget is $407,511. The majority of this increase is committed to improvements in public safety, including the addition of a permanent School Resource Officer in the Middle School, an additional Dispatcher to monitor school security and an additional contract with Danbury Hospital for EMT and Paramedic services necessary to ensure 24/7 emergency medical coverage in New Fairfield. We are also proposing to restore one position in the Public Works Department. Over the last 10 years, 4 positions have been eliminated from Public Works. As a result, it has become more difficult to schedule and complete critical Preventative Maintenance tasks, including routine roadside mowing to maintain adequate site lines and visibility, catch basin cleaning to prevent ponding and icing on Town roads and maintenance of aging drainage systems to prevent damage to roads and private property. Prioritizing Preventative Maintenance now improves safety and decreases the need for costly repairs in the future.
The next step in the budget process is for the Board of Finance to make final revisions to the budget and vote to send it to the taxpayers for a vote in May. I encourage you to attend Board of Finance meetings, Board of Selectmen meetings and Board of Education meetings to ask any questions you may have about the budget. You may also e-mail us through links on the Town and School Websites, and you may contact me directly at email@example.com or at 203-312-5600 with any questions.
– Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman