Fairfield finance board cuts $2.1 million in budget approval, still leaves out conservation position

Photo of Katrina Koerting
File photo of vehicles at the Fairfield Department of Public Works.

File photo of vehicles at the Fairfield Department of Public Works.

Contributed / Contributed photo

FAIRFIELD — The finance board cut about $2.1 million from the budget proposed by the first selectwoman before sending the now nearly $333.4 million budget on to the Representative Town Meeting.

The budget was approved along party lines with the Republicans supporting it and the Democrats voting against it. It’s about $16 million more than the current year.

“It was another tough budget year,” Board of Finance Chairman James Brown said. “I think we did a really good job filling in the cliffs from last year.”

School funding remained unchanged from First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick’s proposal, leaving it at nearly $192.1 million, which is $2 million less than what the school board approved but $7.5 million more than the current year.

A chunk of the cuts were made based on new projections from actuaries and other officials to the retirement and health insurance or benefits lines.

Other cuts included $100,000 from contingency, which was based around discussions that happened largely in executive session about salary reserves, and $1.2 million from the planned contribution to surplus, leaving a $1 million contribution instead toward the reserves.

“There’s too many unknowns to take it all out,” Brown said of the surplus contribution, adding they’ll have costs coming up connected to the ongoing fill pile issue.

The board also cut $102,500 in capital overlay from the Department of Public Works and $150,000 for the parks and recreation study. Members said they supported the items though and would try to fund them another way.

It also added more revenue from real estate sales and use of the golf course. This doesn’t affect the bottom line but could help the tax rate at the end of the budget process.

While no proposal was made, several finance board members addressed the concerns they’ve heard from the public — and share — about the conservation administrator position cut in the budget as part of Kupchick’s reorganization effort.

Lori Charlton said the finance board doesn’t make personnel decisions and could only add money back into the department. She said they would essentially just be raising taxes for a position it doesn’t seem will be reinstated.

“That makes no sense,” she said, adding she’s committed to approving money for it though if Kupchick decides the new model isn’t working and wants to bring it back either once the new year starts or in the next budget.

The RTM is scheduled to vote on the budget May 3.