First selectman’s budget comes with 2.24% tax hike, $700K cut to schools request
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education’s proposed budget for the 2019-20 year came in at a 5 percent increase over the current year, for a total of $182.3 million.
But it’s $700,000 too high, First Selectman Mike Tetreau outlined in his budget proposal, unveiled Feb. 26.
“(The first selectman’s) budget recommendation includes a schools budget of $181.7 million. This represents a 4.6 percent increase over last year,” Tetreau wrote. “The 4.6 percent increase is the largest increase in over a decade and is double the average increase over the past 10 years.”
But even with the proposed education cutback, the town’s operational budget would also see a 3.54 percent increase, amounting to $136.1 million for fiscal year 2019-20. This comes with a projected tax rate of 26.95, up 2.24 percent from last year.
The BOE unanimously approved Superintendent Toni Jones’ budget — driven primarily by contract increases, utilities and maintenance projects — on Jan. 24.
“We will present (the budget) to the Board of Selectmen and work through the process and we’ll see where the budget actually ends up,” Jones said.
The schools budget represents 57 percent of the town’s total budget, according to Tetreau’s proposed budget.
Last budget season, the town took out $500,000 for asphalt paving and $20,000 for sidewalk maintenance in an effort to accomodate what was then the education board’s 3.1 percent increase.
This year, the Tetreau’s budget allocates $2.7 million toward paving, $1.2 million more than the current year. Money for sidewalk maintenance will remain at $80,000.
Reduced aid from the state to Fairfield County municipalities has been a constant worry in past years. Fairfield saw a reduction of $2.5 million in Educational Cost Sharing funds and is still reeling from a million dollar tax revenue shortfall from General Electric’s departure.
Jones emphasized that administrators would look at areas where they could reduce requests to have the “least impact to the classroom.”
Board of Education Chairman Christine Vitale said while she was not happy with the reduction request, the board would continue to advocate for students and staff as the budget season continues.
“I do appreciate that Mr. Tetreau has a responsibility to balance the needs of the school district with the larger needs of our town,” Vitale said. “Strong schools lead to a strong town; hopefully, other town officials will agree and invest accordingly.”
“I know town boards will carefully review these recommendations. ... Working together, we will continue to make Fairfield a great value and an affordable place to live, work and raise a family,” Tetreau wrote.