Fairfield proposed budget calls for 2.58 percent tax increase

Sullivan Independence Hall on Feb. 18, 2020.

Sullivan Independence Hall on Feb. 18, 2020.

/ Josh LaBella

FAIRFIELD — The 2020-21 budget was released Monday morning and calls for a 2.58 percent tax hike to pay for an $11 million increase from the year before.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kuphick said the $327,497,024 budget was the first step in her multi-year plan to modernize Fairfield.

“This vision encourages smart growth that offers urban-style amenities in order to attract the next generation of Fairfielders and businesses while still maintaining our New England charm,” Kupchick said.

One of the changes Kupchick proposed, which she has discussed before, is purchasing software that will allow residents and businesses to apply and pay for permits online. Departments getting the software included Building, Planning and Zoning and Conservation.

She said the modernization of services will help bring Fairfield on par with surrounding towns.

Another part of the budget was the creation of a business development director, a new position in the Economic Development Department. Kupchick said the new director would engage with developers and businesses to help grow the grand list.

Education spending takes up 66 percent of the budget, coming in at just more than $187 million. The Board of Education’s requested increase was cut by $1.4 million.

The decrease was comprised of $800,000 in insurance savings and more than $600,000 cut from the operational side of the budget. Contractual spending on teacher compensation has grown by $1.7 million.

Town spending increased approximately $137.8 million, 3.69 percent higher than the year before.

Health care costs for town employees increased by 12 percent, or $1.2 million. Kupchick’s presentation also said the budget plans for a $1.3 million fund balance contribution.

The proposed budget also allots funding for improvements to municipal properties, which Kupchick said are in need of renovations and upkeep lacking in previous years.

The plan would hire more staff and create ADA compliant bathrooms at the senior center as well as create a long and short-term capital plan for public buildings and infrastructure.

Funding was also set aside for the joint Fairfield-Westport emergency center, which is expected to be completed later this year.

“This budget starts to build the foundation to stabilize taxes and eventually lower them,” Kupchick said.

The Board of Selectman is set to vote on the budget in its March 9 meeting. After that, it will have to be approved by the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.