Reacting to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to cut state aid to towns, including $1.1 million to Darien, the town’s Board of Finance at a special meeting Monday replaced the state funding with budget cuts and tax increases.
Under the board’s proposal, which now goes to the Representative Town Meeting for final approval, taxes would increase by an additional $515,425, and the mill rate would go from the $15.73 in the proposed budget passed earlier this month to $15.80 — a tax rise of 2.93 percent from last year (the budget proposal passed earlier this month would have raised taxes 2.48 percent).
Editor’s note: More information from Monday night’s discussions will be published later Tuesday by Darienite.com, when this note will be removed.
The state aid cuts aren’t certain to take place. (The RTM can cut the budget further, and therefore cut taxes, but not increase spending.)
The board adopted a proposal from its chairman, Jon Zagrodzky, who offered what he called a “balanced” plan to cut something from the Board of Selectman’s budget ($250,000 for a generator for Town Hall, to be used during power outages), and $530,000 in a proposed a set of cuts in capital projects for the Board of Education budget.
The capital projects cut included $250,000 for a storage facility and $100,000 to repair a track at the high school, $65,000 to replace a carpet at Middlesex Middle School, $15,000 to replace windows in a second-floor hallway at Holmes School.
Zagrodsky said removing the projects from the budget this year didn’t kill them off — they were important enough for the Board of Finance to have approved in the budget it passed on April 7, he pointed out. He added that there are various ways the projects might be funded in the future:
- The money might not be cut as the governor works out a compromise with the Legislature to close the state’s budget deficit. Then money from state aid could be used to fund some of the projects.
- A bond may be issued in the next fiscal year to pay for a new town garage and other projects. Financing for some of the capital projects cut Monday night could be included in that bond.
- There’s always next year, when state aid might be restored or the town could get more tax revenue.
Zagrodzky originally had also proposed cutting capital projects of $45,000 for a new gym floor at Ox Ridge School and $15,000 to replace a maintenance truck. Schools Superintendent Dan Brenner, asked for his comments by Zagrodzky, said the floor was a “safety issue” for kids and the truck was a very high priority. He asked whether or not those cuts might be avoided. Zagrodzky agreed, and instead the Board of Finance raised taxes by slightly more.
Zagrodzky said he didn’t want to suggest cuts in either the Board of Selectmen’s or Board of Education’s operating budgets, since those would degrade town services more directly, could result in layoffs and could disrupt either town operations or the quality of education for Darien students. Deferring capital projects was much less likely to do any of that, and it’s easier to add them back to the budget later when the town finds the money, he said.
The Board of Finance had mistakenly approved $182,500 in capital projects that had been designated “Priority 2” by the Board of Education, which had not actually asked for those projects in that board’s proposed budget. Those projects, expected to be done sometime after the next fiscal year, were also removed from the budget Monday night by the Board of Finance.