Fairfield budget process starts to pick up steam
FAIRFIELD — A final vote won’t be taken until May 7, but the town’s annual budget process is already well underway.
The Board of Education adopted its proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2019 on Thursday, which will be forwarded to the first selectman, who has spent the month of January reviewing his department heads’ budget proposals.
As has been the practice, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance are scheduled to hold seven joint budget hearings in March. Department heads appear before the boards to answer questions and advocate for their individual budget requests. Before switching to joint hearings, department heads had to appear before both boards in separate meetings. Though there are joint hearings, the two boards conduct separate meetings when it comes time to approve a proposed budget.
When they adopted their meeting schedule in December, some finance board members questioned whether the joint hearing practice should continue. At that time, Chairman Tom Flynn said he had heard from members about how the Board of Selectmen vote before the Board of Finance does, giving them “credit” for some cuts that may have been brought up by finance board members.
“This is under ongoing review and the budget subcommittee will be speaking about it at one of our meetings in February,” Flynn said, adding no final determination has been made.
“There may, in fact, be changes to the schedule,” he said, “but likely we will continue to hold joint hearings.”
The Board of Selectmen are scheduled to vote March 27, the finance board on March 29.
First Selectman Make Tetreau said he expects to release his initial budget recommendation on or about March 1.
“Town departments are doing their best to hold the line on the budgets,” Tetreau said. “Since this is the second year of the two-year state budget, we have some expectations of municipal aid. We are evaluating what we can expect and what changes might be coming.”
The charter requires the selectmen submit a budget recommendation to the Board of Finance not later than two months before the annual Representative Town Meeting budget meeting. The finance board must also hold a public hearing in March, which is scheduled for March 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Fairfield Ludlowe High School auditorium.
Once the finance board has voted, the budget moves on to the RTM, which is expected to schedule three budget hearings for early April, before voting on a final budget document May 7.
There are three main components to the municipal budget: the Board of Education, which appears as a single line item, town department requests, and debt service, along with three sources of revenue — local tax revenue, nontax revenue from permits and fees and state grants.
Fiscal year 2018-19 budget process
Jan. 25: Board of Education adopts its budget
March 1, 6, 8, 14, 15, 19, 21: Joint Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance budget meetings, 7:30 p.m., Board of Education conference room
March 24: Board of Finance public hearing on the budget, 9:30 a.m., Fairfield Ludlowe High School auditorium
March 27: Board of Selectmen vote on budget
March 29: Board of Finance votes on budget
Aprildates to be announced: Representative Town Meeting budget hearings
May 7: RTM vote on budget