RTM passes town and education budgets with little debate
DARIEN — The budget season came to an end Monday with almost no discussion from Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members.
The RTM, with around 80 members present, passed the selectmen and education budgets with a few questions from members. Town officials including Selectmen, Town Administrator Kate Buch, Finance Director Jennifer Charneski and Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky were also in attendance.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson noted that staff had been notified to maintain a flat budget, something which not all the boards adhered to because of contractual obligations and other expenditures.
“We added performance measures to the budget this year, a way to really show additional accountability in all of our departments. Next year we’re looking at the full implementation of the OpenGov software so all of us can have an interactive experience with the town budget,” Stevenson said.
The Board of Selectmen budget came in at a 4.81 percent decrease amounting to $47,049,394 for the fiscal year 2019.
The Board of Education saw only one vote in opposition and was finalized at a 2.34 percent increase or $98,122,266 for the 2019 fiscal year. A vast majority of the public left after the education budget was passed.
“There have been hundreds of hours put into this budget. We appreciated the questions and the discussion and appreciated where we disagreed, doing so respectfully,” Board of Education Chairperson Tara Ochman said.
With this accepted budget, the mill rate was decreased for the upcoming fiscal year, from 16.16 to 16.08. Residents will pay $16.08 per $1,000 of assessed value on their property.
A salient topic at the RTM meeting was the additional cost to the Darien High School cafeteria expansion project. A large electrical line adjacent to the cafeteria halted the project only a week after work had begun.
“The line impacts current and future expansion projects and we are currently at a full stop with the cafeteria expansion project,” McCammon said.
The project was originally supposed to conclude before the new school year started but, according to Board of Education member Jill McCammon, that date is now scheduled for mid-November. $335,960 has been proposed to cover the cost of the removal of the electrical line.
The Board of Finance was scheduled to vote on the item Tuesday night but the storm forced the closure of town hall around 6:15 p.m. according to an email from Stevenson.