There is a lot of misinformation circulating on social media regarding the school construction project and the potential impact on this year’s budget. The Town budget is the total of five components, incorporating both the municipal and education budgets. The five components are operating expenses, capital expenditures, debt service, medical and pension. The school project will contribute to the debt service component, totaling about $600,000 this year out of a roughly $51 million budget. The mill rate, which determines the amount of tax you pay based on the assessed value of your property, is set based on the total increase/decrease in all five components of the budget. Therefore, one component can increase, but another may decrease to offset that increase. As a result of an Order by the Governor, the BOF will set the budget and mill rate in consultation with the BOS and BOE sometime in June this year. All three Boards are monitoring the economic impact of the coronavirus daily and we are acutely aware of the potential impact on our taxpayers. Both Boards will do everything we can to keep any tax increase low using the tools available to us.
The Town has a singular opportunity to purchase a piece of property which is bordered by school property on three sides. This parcel would improve the layout of the proposed High School, improve site security and reduce construction costs for the project. Because the potential purchase of the property, located at 78 Gillotti Road, will be made using money from the Town’s Unappropriated Capital and Non-Recurring Fund, it would not increase the proposed budget or mill rate. The Fund, intended for situations just like this one, is made up of money from capital projects completed over the past several years that came in below budget. Additionally, the Permanent Building Committee is planning to reduce the construction budget for the project by the purchase price of the property so that the purchase does not increase the overall cost of the project.
Finally, there is absolutely no indication that the State will not continue to fund school construction projects in the coming years, and to suggest that the taxpayer will be liable for the state’s contribution to these projects is purely a political scare tactic. As a matter of fact, school construction is one topic that garners bipartisan support year after year. Please stay informed of the facts as the budget process moves forward by participating in virtual PBC, BOS and BOF meetings. The BOF is currently meeting every Wednesday evening at 7:30 to discuss the budget and accept public comment. Links and dial in information can be found on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org, by clicking on the “virtual town meetings” button on the right side of the home page.
Governor Lamont has been issuing Executive Orders almost daily, dramatically changing the way we live and do business in Connecticut, all with the goal of keeping us safe and “flattening the curve.” Many useful links to sources of information have been posted on the home page of the Town website. Highlights of some changes made in the past week include:
Further, the CDC has recommended that all of us wear fabric face coverings or masks when we are out in public. The recommendation was made as scientists learn more about the transmission of the coronavirus from asymptomatic individuals. Personally, I will be following this recommendation and I hope that you do too. Please stay home except for short, infrequent trips for groceries and other necessities. These are things we can do to protect ourselves, our community and our health care workers. We must do everything that we can to turn the corner.