Marconi Optimistic About 2013-14 Budget Vote

Town Meeting sets budget referendum for next Tuesday.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the proposed 2013-14 municipal budget that will go to referendum next week is “extremely modest” since it only increases town government spending by 0.68 percent and the school district by 1.97 percent.

“With this proposed increase, the boost in the mill rate would be less than 1 percent per year on average for the last six years,” he said Monday night to about 100 people who turned out at the Ridgefield Playhouse for the annual town meeting.

The proposed $128,378,247 budget will go to referendum May 14 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Yanity Gym. The plan includes $82,871,238 for education and $45,506,999 for town government operations.

Superintendent of Schools Deborah Low said the schools are adding some additional unarmed security personnel to ensure safety, as well an additional 2.72 certified staff members.

However, resident Ed Tyrrell said the proposed education package “makes no sense” since it is three times higher than the proposed increase for town government services.

“The population of the town is increasing and the population of the schools is decreasing,” he added.

“The taxpayers are not benefiting from some of those reductions in the schools budget” said resident Dave Scott, who indicated that he opposes the proposed education plan but supports the town government package.

Tyrrell said school district spending is benefiting “the education establishment through the creation of jobs.”

Low said, for example, the district has yielded $534,221 in savings from a new bus contract and has pared health costs by 2.01 percent below last year’s figure.

“I understand that there is $500,000 [for the security personnel] that causes that 1.97 percent to happen,” Marconi said in an interview. “But we have reduced too many staff members over the last couple of years.”

“We need to maintain the quality of our schools and the quality of our roads,” he added. “It is not easy during these tough economic times to reduce everything.”

“I will not make a prediction,” Marconi said regarding the results of the referendum. “However, it has been very quiet during this budget season.”

He said the town has approved the municipal budget in the first vote in each of the last three years.

Board of Finance Chairman David Ulmer said the town has a robust fiscal profile, noting that during the recession the median household income only declined from $137,000 to $132,000 between 2008 and 2011 and there have only been two mortgage foreclosures in town during the current calendar year.

Marconi said the town has had a AAA bond rating, the highest possible, for nearly 15 years. He said the fund balance is about 8.7 percent, which has increased in recent years in comparison to some other towns in Fairfield County.

“What really matters most is that the budgets are being approved in the first referendum,” he said “That sends a signal that people are happy about how the town spends its money.”

In addition to the questions on the education and town government services packages, there will be six smaller appropriations on the ballot:

  • Question 3: Making appropriations for $1,847,670 in planning, design, acquisition and construction of various town road and infrastructure improvements.
  • Question 4: Appropriating $155,000 for planning, design, acquisition and construction of the Bennett Farm road drain construction and $105,000 in façade repair at Ridgefield High School.
  • Question 5: $150,000 for planning, design, acquisition and construction of sidewalk improvements.
  • Question 6: $125,000 for asbestos abatement at Scotland Elementary School and $205,000 for construction of auditorium seating at East Ridge Middle School.
  • Question 7: $310,000 for planning and construction of playground Phase II.
  • Question 8: $1,140,094 for various public improvements.
Charles May 07, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Let me guess, everything passed at the town meeting. BTW, could the referendum question be any more vague? "Question 8: $1,140,094 for various public improvements." What on earth is the money being used for? Patch, I'm sure you have more clout than us lowly residents. Could you find out more details on what some of these referendum questions mean? Short of that, I think every resident should send a message. We need to know what we are being asked to vote on. If our local government can only supply vagaries, then we should all vote no.
porter gladstone jr May 08, 2013 at 06:22 AM
Low said, for example, the district has yielded $534,221 in savings from a new bus contract and has pared health costs by 2.01 percent below last year’s figure. This is typical of Deb Low. Instead of acknowledging that the Ridgefield Bus contract was the worst negotiated thing ever, and left Ridgefield with highest paid bus drivers by far in the State---she talks about how the new contract 'saved' us 500k. Ha--yeah you have decreasing enrollment and were able to recognized how we got hoodwinked in previous contract--and spin into a 'savings" Does she like when kids exaggerate? Or when kids dont tell the actual story? Ive had enough of these government sheisters.
Phil D. May 21, 2013 at 09:26 PM
I'm just tired of "Referendum" Rudy- not even hiding it. $250K spent thi syear to study which roads need the most repair?? How bout Rudy rings up Pete Hill, or the guys driving the plows?? It's getting hard to watch follks- this guy is not the answer.


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