Schools, public works budgets face deep cuts

FAIRFIELD — As the fiscal year 2020 budget nears the finish line, certain departments could still see changes to their bottom line as the Representative Town Meeting approaches its May 6 vote.

Outstanding departments in this year’s budget process include the Board of Education and the Department of Public Works, both of which have seen cuts at the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance level.

In early April, the Board of Finance approved a budget that saw nearly $1 million in adjustments, decreasing the Board of Selectmen-approved budget to $316.9 million and resulitng in a proposed 1.9 percent tax hike.

As part of that approval, the Department of Public Works — which originally had $2.7 million toward paving in First Selectman Mike Tetreau’s proposed budget — now faces a $200,000 cut with $500,000 placed in contingency pending a presentation from town officials.

When asked by RTM members about the potential effects of the impending cuts at an April 9 meeting, Director of Public Works Joe Michelangelo said items would be red-lined and could see a quarter of work eliminated.

“Obviously, we would like to see the whole paving budget restored,” Michelangelo said. “We have a plan for (the original $2.7 million allocated toward paving) ... but unfortunately it was reduced.”

According to Tetreau, an appeal to the RTM has been filed to restore the full $700,000 to the Public Works budget.

If two-thirds of the RTM in attendance at the budget vote meeting approve the resolution to restore the funds, the monies would be put back into the Public Works’ budget.

The Board of Education, which approved its $182.3 million budget earlier this year, has yet to accommodate a $700,000 cut from Tetreau’s proposed budget, subsequently approved by the Board of Finance.

Jay Wold, of District 5, asked school officials how the cuts would affect schools at the April 10 RTM meeting.

“Unfortunately, I cannot give you a detailed answer to that question right now,” Board of Education Chairman Christine Vitale said.

Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones, who heads off to lead Greenwich schools this summer, has consistently emphasized her budget focuses on contract increases, utilities and necessary maintenance projects.

The education board is hosting a town hall event April 30 at 501 Kings Highway E.; residents are encouraged to attend.

“After this body votes, we’ll see where the budget comes in at that time, and ask Dr. Jones and staff to give us a recommendation for where she thinks the best place for that money to come from,” Vitale said.