Saturday, May 5th is the date likely to be set for a vote on the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget for our schools and town operations. The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a Town Meeting for April 26th to approve that date for a machine vote to approve the proposed schools budget of $42,820,654 and town budget of $12,126,441 for the town budget. To fund these budgets, New Fairfield will ask its taxpayers to approve an overall 2.55% mill rate increase.
As detailed in the column of First Selectman Pat DelMonaco last week, these proposed budgets are the product of several months of work and close examination by New Fairfield’s Boards of Selectmen, Education and Finance. The final proposal was approved unanimously by the Board of Finance on April 4th.
The proposed mill rate increase is in line with increases over the previous eight years as illustrated in the table below.
|BOF Recommended||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved||Voter Approved|
The Board of Finance approved an increase amounting to $1.2 million recommended by the Board of Selectmen. While the mill rate for last year increased by 3.97 percent, last year’s Town budget actually decreased by $38,210 from the previous year. Last year was an unusual budget year, with tax rates going up, but actual budgets going down due to the high degree of uncertainty about what the State of Connecticut would do in the face of its budget crisis. The Boards anticipated that the State would revoke more state funding than now appears likely, which may lead to a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year. (If a budget surplus does develops, it could be used to defray capital costs required to improve school safety as identified by the School Safety Committee.) While Connecticut still has a budget crisis and there is still a fair degree of uncertainty concerning how much grant money will be provided to New Fairfield from the State, the Board of Finance did not make the same assumption of large state cuts as it did last year, allowing this year’s proposed mill rate increase to remain well within the normal range.
The increases to this year’s Town budget reflects a renewed focus on the safety and health of our residents and children. We are proposing to spend an additional $360,736 on overtime pay for school resource officers in light of increased concerns about school safety, 24 x 7 ambulance coverage, new gear for the fire department, and overtime for other policing. Additionally, this year’s budget reflects a $500,000 increase for paving our roads. Last year’s budget cuts resulted in no direct town expenditures on road paving, leaving a hole in the budget that has to be made up if we are to keep our roads in acceptable shape. The rest of the proposed increase for the town goes in large part for normal pay increases for our union and non-union employees and replacement of equipment that has become difficult to maintain. Apart from normal salary increases, we are proposing to add approximately $36,000 for additional employee hours to provide added services for the Senior Center, the Land Use Department, Social Services, the Fire Department, and the Finance Department, as detailed in First Selectman Pat DelMonaco’s column last week.
While the Town is requesting an additional $1.2 million for its programs, the Schools are requesting an additional $1.9 million for their programs, These requests are offset by an estimated increase in non-tax revenues and slightly increased by an adjustment to property taxes, with the total request for both budgets set at $48,967,898 in tax revenue — an additional of $1.45 million over last year. This, taken together with the slight increase in our grand list yields the proposed mill rate increase of 2.55 percent. This amounts to approximately $169.73 in additional taxes on a home assessed at $203,700, which is approximately the mid-point of assessed value of New Fairfield homes.
Pat and I believe that the increased safety of our children and residents and the increase in services, including road paving, justify the increase proposed for the coming fiscal year and urge you to approve both the Town and School budgets.
Only 800 residents voted in last year’s budget vote – a very small turn out — for something that affects everyone’s pocketbooks. Watch the Town Website and FaceBook Page and the Town Tribune for final details on this year’s election.
– Khris Hall, Selectman