Finance board increases budget, and the tax rate
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Finance went in the other direction with the 2017-18 budget, bumping it up to $299,459,597 and a 1.81 percent tax increase, hedging their bets as they wait to see what happens with the state’s spending plan.
The vote was 8 to 1, with David Becker casting the lone dissenting vote. The budget now goes to the Representative Town Meeting, which reviews the budget Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, at 7 p.m. at Penfield Pavilion.
As it stands now, the budget, which includes the restoration of $2 million to the Board of Education, a street sweeper for Public Works, and the youth recreation coordinator, translates to a mill rate of 25.91. The current mill rate is 25.45.
With the state’s budget not expected to be set until possibly September, the finance board wrestled with the unknown. In addition to cuts in revenue, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget called for billing the town $9 million for the state teacher pension fund. There was talk that the pension payments wouldn’t get past the state legislature, but now apparently phasing in those pension payments is being discussed. The budget adopted by the Board of Selectmen carried at 1.3 percent tax increase.
Finance board member James Walsh wanted to err on the side of caution, while still restoring funds for Public Works trucks and paving, and the library materials accounts.
“As this budget is before us right now, there are no hold areas that the first selectman can put on any part of the budget like he did last year,” Walsh said. At the Board of Selectmen level, Selectmen Chris Tymniak and Ed Bateson didn’t support First Selectman Mike Tetreau’s motion to add back the DPW and library funding. “All that stuff has been removed, and there’s no wiggle room.”
Walsh wanted to put those cuts back into the budget, with the understanding the money wouldn’t be touched until after the state budget was adopted, and the town knew the impact on its own budget.
Board of Finance budget actions
Cuts made by finance board:
First Selectman fees & professional services $3,000
First Selectman office supplies $500
Registrar of Voters overtime $1,00
Registrar of Voters travel & meeting $500
Miscellaneous contingencies $10,000
Retirees’ benefits OPEB health police/fire $10,000
Human Resources education & membership $5,400
Unemployment compensation $75,000
Parks and Recreation regular payroll $19,866
Parks and Recreation Social Security $566
Additions to the budget:
Retirees’ benefit OPEB town $9,275
Contribution to surplus $128,00
Public Works street sweeper $208,000
Parks and Recreation regular payroll $67,816
Parks and Recreation Social Security $5,188
But Chairman Thomas Flynn felt it was a better idea to put money to cover those items into the contingency account. When the state budget was set, the department heads could return to the finance board and “we can dole out the money.”
The board decided to go with Flynn’s proposal and added $1.2 million to the contingency account, which Baldwin felt sent the wrong message to state lawmakers.
“If there are motions tonight to put a bunch of money in contingency because of cautionary reasons, I’m extremely worried that it sends a message to the state that we are putting money aside,” Walsh said. With his method, he said, “If we need to pay for pension, there’s at least money in our budget for solid things for the first selectman to put a hold on.”
Flynn disagreed. “I don’t believe the state is watching and is going to cut us based on what we do,” Flynn said. “I’d prefer to put it in contingency, and dole it out based on priority.”