January is a busy month for the Board of Selectmen. We will finish our first round of budget workshops this week, meeting with all Town departments and outside agencies that provide critical services to the Town, including the Candlewood Lake Authority and HART bus service. We have met with Public Works, Social Services, Finance, Land Use, Parks and Rec, Library, Public Safety, Fire Department and Senior Center staff. New Fairfield is lucky to have experienced, knowledgeable staff who sharpen their pencils every year to present fiscally responsible budgets for consideration by the Selectmen. Their budgets reflect careful estimation of the resources required to provide necessary services to town residents. These professionals ensure that the town conducts business in the most economically efficient manner possible. So where do we go from here?
Our next step will be to consider each department’s requests and prioritize Town spending for the 2020/2021 fiscal year. The Board members will consider things such as line item expenses, salaries and overtime, utility costs, equipment purchases and staffing changes. We will also consider revenues and capital projects. When the Board of Selectmen agrees on a proposed municipal budget, it will be approved at a regular Board of Selectmen meeting, and then presented to the Board of Finance at a budget hearing in early March. Throughout the month of March, the Board of Finance will conduct weekly meetings focused on budget discussions to resolve issues in both the municipal and Board of Education budgets before a final mark up in April and Town vote in May.
Why is this process important to all New Fairfield residents? Not only does the budget approved by the Board of Finance determine the amount of taxes that you pay, it also determines the services that you receive from the town. For example, budgets for the Library, Parks and Recreation and the Senior Center determine the number of programs and events that can be provided to residents each year. The Senior Center budget also provides for meals for homebound seniors (“Meals on Wheels”) and nutritious hot lunches for seniors five days each week. The Public Works budget determines how many roads can be repaired and paved each year, and the Fire Department budget ensures that our fire safety equipment is up to date and properly maintained.
Not only is it important for the Board of Selectmen to hear your concerns and priorities as we progress through this process, but it is also important for residents to know how their tax dollars are distributed. In addition to additional budget workshops, the municipal budget will be discussed and approved for presentation to the Board of Finance at upcoming Board of Selectmen meetings. All meetings are open to the public, and we welcome your attendance and comments.