Darien Board of Finance approves $137.4 budget. Next stop is RTM
Next stop in approval process is RTM
The Darien Board of Finance approved a budget of $137.4 million for town and Board of Education expenses last week, putting the town on target to limit the tax increase for residents to 2.27 percent, officials said.
The budget, which passed by a vote of 6-1, includes operating budgets of $46.75 million for town government and $90.7 million for the Board of Education.
The town's capital budget under the plan is $4.271 million, according to the document. It also includes a $250,000 cut to the Board of Education's health care operating budget, which Board of Education Chairman Elizabeth Hagerty Ross said was made possible through negotiating with unions.
The budget now goes to the Representative Town Meeting, which is expected to further discuss the budget and vote on it the night of May 11.
The tax increase will raise 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.
The lower-than-expected tax increase reflects a successful effort by First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, town department heads, and the Board of Education to curb spending growth after the RTM pressed for fiscal restraint and cost-saving following a 5.7 percent tax increase in the 2014-15 budget year.
"It's a 2.27 percent increase in the need to tax our good citizens who are already very heavily taxed," Board of Finance Chairman Elizabeth Mao said. "I hope the RTM will be very pleased after giving us instructions to come in under 3.3 percent and hope they are proud of us for coming in a whole lot lower than that."
Contributing to this year's slower spending growth was approval of a $3.135 million capital bonding resolution to bond on 10-year notes a slate of needed improvements.
The package includes $505,000 for purchasing a $228,000 police boat with more modern search-and-rescue features and to replace a heating and cooling system at the Board of Education's administrative offices at 35 Leroy Ave.
The town would also bond $705,000 to pave and make other improvements at five parking lots across town, including new pavement and improved lighting at the Center Street North and Leroy West commuter parking lots.
The continued favorable climate to borrow with very low interest rates makes this a good time to sell municipal bonds to cover the smaller-ticket capital projects like paving, Kathleen C. Buch, the town's finance director, told board members; but added the caveat that, on a recurring basis, bonding to pave or knock off smaller items eventually drives up taxes.
The bonds also will include $1.925 million in bonding to cover the cost of the purchase of 4 Short Lane, a waterfront parcel the town is expected to develop into an extension of Weed Beach Park; making the bond package big enough so the town will realize significant benefits from the low interest rates, Buch said.
"I don't want to see the boards getting in the habit of throwing capital items into bonding on a regular basis," Buch said. "It's not something we typically do. But this year we have an awful lot of necessary projects, and a lot of them have longterm lives, and thirdly; we have cheap money."