At this year’s minimally attended annual town meeting, Ridgefield approved just under $729 thousand in capital items and the wording of all eight referendum questions with little objection.
After brief presentations by First Selectman Rudy Marconi, school board chair Austin Drukker and Board of Finance Chair Peter Gomez, as well as the heads (or chiefs) of each department, a series of “ayes” from the small audience at the Playhouse brought approval to all queries.
The meeting was held in preparation for the budget referendum to be held Tuesday, May 10, at Yanity Gym, during which voters will decide to accept or defer a $45 million 2011-12 budget for the town and a $79 million budget for the schools.
The other six questions pertain to proposed bonding projects, including police vehicles, a school- and town-wide energy project, road maintenance, fire vehicles, sidewalk improvements and asbestos abatement at the schools, all of which passed to referendum.
Only a few “nays” came through during the capital presentations, including one each from Board of Finance Chair Peter Gomez and finance member Margaret Price-Sims regarding a $35 thousand project to protect Mamanasco Lake – the board members both voted similarly during budget discussions in early April.
The only other “nays” came from Ridgefield resident Jan Rifkinson – who spoke a number of times during the night – and a few others regarding the Parks and Recreation Department’s request for a new field conditioner tractor priced at $21,500. Rifkinson noted that Parks and Rec. had not made the tractor a priority over its proposed Spray Bay before the water park was eliminated from the capital projects.
Most items passed without further discussion.
One item brought up outside the meeting’s scope a number of times was the health savings account (HSA) plan for health insurance coverage of teachers.
Marconi thanked school board member John Palermo specifically for his work on the HSA project, as there are now 30 percent of teachers on the plan with incentive to bring in more – with the same amount of coverage as the current plan, the HSA carries a rollover that saves money for the employees and the schools, Palermo said.
Drukker added that the number of employees who opt for the HSA program can have a direct effect on reducing the amount of cuts to school programs and infrastructure.
According to Palermo, every 10 percent of teachers that opt for the program –over the current 30 percent – can bring in $75 to $100 thousand for the schools.