RTM approves $137.5 million dollar budget
Published 11:35 am, Monday, May 18, 2015
After a month of consideration, Darien's Representative Town Meeting approved a $137.5 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year by a near-unanimous vote.
The body voted 71-1 with one abstension to approve the board of selectmen's $46.5 million operating budget and 72-1 to approve the Board of Education's $90.7 million budget.
Both budgets won the approval of the RTM's Finance and Budget Committee and the entire body with little trouble because of a more rigorous budget approval process requiring both town departments and education departments to justify their spending line by line in an effort to curb extraneous costs, committee chairman Jim Palen said Tuesday.
The budget represents a much- slower rate of spending growth than recent years, including last year when spending grew by 5.7 percent. The spending will boost the town's mill rate, the number of dollars of tax per $1,000 of property value, from 15.01 mills to 15.35 mills as of July 1, a much smaller increase than last year, when the rate jumped from 13.07 mills.
The board of selectmen's operating budget increase was 0.64 percent, while the Board of Education kept spending increases to just under 3 percent, less than contractual wage increases they are obligated to pay to employees this year.
"The RTM's nearly unanimous support for the town's spending proposals was reflective of the process by which the board of selectmen and Board of Education built the budgets and the early involvement of the RTM's committees," Palen said. "The `bottom-up' approach to building the operating budgets forced town leaders and their staff to look hard at all line items."
Palen said the town also was aided in controlling budget costs by favorable market conditions for borrowing money, which led finance officials to approve a capital bonding package to fund needed improvements such as a $228,000 police boat, paving parking lots, and a new band shell in the Darien High School auditorium.
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"The tempered growth in the operating budgets, strong fund balances and the availability of low cost debt allowed the Board of Finance to advance a number of important capital investments in our town and schools, all while delivering a mill rate increase to our residents of only 2.27 percent," Palen said. "The success of the budget was ultimately the result of all the town boards and their staff working towards the same goal."
The capital project budget for the town this year also includes money to pave five town owned parking lots, including paving and installing new lighting at the Center Street North and Leroy West commuter parking lots.