Ridgefield town and school officials presented a $129,488,422 municipal budget at a Board of Finance public hearing Wednesday at East Ridge Middle School.
That figure represents $32,720,614 for town operations, $83,581,427 for school operations and $13,186,381 for debt service, according to First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s budget presentation at the beginning of the meeting.
The only mention of a projected tax rate increase was from Board of Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer, who said the proposed budget would cause taxes to rise 2.7 percent.
Several residents spoke during the public comment portion, mostly to support the school budget and ask that the costs for new school security personnel not come at the expense of educational programs.
Breaking Down the Education Budget
School Supt. Deborah Low presented the 2013-14 Ridgefield school budget, noting that the school district’s insurance consultant had been able to slim the increase for employee health and dental insurance to 2.85 percent, a reduction from what she had projected in January when the Board of Education approved an $83.9 million budget proposal.
She said the consultant was continuing to negotiate the figure and more savings might be possible before the budget is finalized in May.
Low also detailed other savings she credited with holding spending down, especially a and a reduction of $162,000 in the budget account for substitute teachers’ pay.
But the lone critic among the residents who spoke, Ed Tyrrell, said the savings noted by Low were not sufficient in his opinion, and he questioned why school spending must always rise every year even though enrollment is declining.
Paying Down Debt
Marconi said spending to pay off town debt would decrease by 0.72 percent, but the decreases would accelerate in coming years as more than $100 million in school construction debt from 20 years ago is retired.
He said the proposed 2013-14 capital budget included:
- $741,764 for town vehicles and equipment
- $348,000 for technology improvements and renovations for town buildings
- $1,798,000 for town roads and infrastructure
- $780,000 for technology improvements and renovations for school buildings
Budget Deliberations Will Continue
The Board of Finance plans to hold a series of budget workshops next week, including one on Wednesday devoted solely to the school budget.
Town officials announced that the annual town budget meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ridgefield Playhouse, and the town’s budget referendum will take place on May 14.