DARIEN — What started out as a flat budget got even tighter.
Deliberations on the town hall budget by the Board of Selectmen had been postponed for nearly two weeks following a Feb. 13 meeting and discussion continued for half an hour on Feb. 26.
One of the major items crossed out from Buch’s original budget was the Police Department request for three additional civilian dispatchers. The costs in salaries and benefits pertaining to that line item were a major driver in the reductions of the original budget. The Selectmen agreed to revisit the item for Fiscal Year 2020 or beyond.
The recent high school shooting in Parklands, Florida was referenced by First Selectman Jayme Stevenson as local officials are evaluating ways to keep schools safe with active shooter drills and additional manpower for protection.
“With our civilian dispatch request from the Police Department it was part of the plan to consider placing one sworn officer at Middlesex Middle School. I followed up with Superintendent Dan Brenner and Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman who said that in this budget cycle they did not have those discussions yet, about whether they wanted to entertain putting a (School Resource Officer) at Middlesex Middle School. I had recommended, in fact, that this request really should start with the Board of Education,” Stevenson said.
The First Selectman noted that though the Board of Education budget has already been approved, discussion between the Board of Education and Finance in the upcoming weeks regarding this matter could still occur.
“Tragedy happened at Parklands and now across the nation there’s renewed interest in enhancing security at our public schools. The Board of Education will be talking about this in the future and probably directly to the Board of Finance. This is a possibility that we’re ready to support,” Stevenson added.
The Board of Selectmen approved the Fiscal Year 2019 budget Feb. 26 which came in at $45,689,237, amounting to a 1.05 percent reduction from the current fiscal year.
Town Administrator Kate Buch had first presented a flat budget, with a 0.42 percent decrease from the current fiscal year coming in at $45,980,169, to the selectmen back in January. The adopted budget represents a nearly $300,000 reduction from Buch’s original proposal.
The Board of Education budget was previously approved Feb. 13 coming in at a 2.34 percent increase over the current year’s budget and totalling $98,122,266.
The budget for town hall operations was adopted unanimously by the Selectmen. The Board of Finance will review the Board of Education and Selectmen budgets at its March 6 meeting. Both budgets are ultimately adopted by the Representative Town Meeting which cannot make increases to either budget but can veto items on the Selectmen’s budget and cut expenses on the Education’s budget.