June 19, 2013
Written by Jake Kara
Monday, 07 May 2012 14:50
Board of Finance members told top town officials Monday the town could probably bear a tax increase no greater than about 2%, which would mean budget increases in the next cycle would have to come in at less than about 3% each. This was more specific than the guidance the finance board has given to school and town officials in recent annual triboard meetings that kick off the winter budgeting season.
"It was a good meeting," said First Selectman Rudy Marconi. "I am happy. For the first time since I've been first selectman, a Board of Finance has finally given us a target. I think that's great."
He said the number is not set in stone, but it's good to understand the finance board's ongoing thought process.
The 2% number isn't official.
No vote was taken. The board hasn't even met with its new membership established by the November election that gave the majority to Democrats for the first time in memory.
"We always have worked toward a fiscally responsible budget," said Board of Education Chairman Austin Drukker, adding that it is useful to have the finance board's input on what it considers fiscally responsible. In the past, "we've gotten guidance, but it's not been so direct, so I appreciate the transparency."
The 3% budgets, making for a 2% increase, are contingent on a lot of assumptions, including that the final grand list growth figures, typically made official in early January, will be similar to this year's.
If there is a smaller-thanexpected tax base, twin 3% budget increases would mean more than that 2% tax rate increase.
"Given a slow recovery, anything more than 2% is probably not bearable and not passable," said finance board member Dave Ulmer. "Things could get better but they could also get a little bit worse."
There were few surprises in the reports from school and town officials on their current budgets, five months into the fiscal year.
"It's good to know there's no red flags," Mr. Ulmer said.
"We've done very well, much better than a lot of other communities, but we're still not in any position of any dramatic growth or dramatic recovery, either our citizens or our town."
Town Controller Kevin Redmond said town hall's on course to finish out the year $120,000 over budget.
However, that doesn't include cost savings within each department that may have already been realized or will be in an attempt to avoid red ink from some projected revenue shortfalls.
Nor does it include more than $500,000 in revenue from building permit fees on Boehringer Ingelheim's expansion. They were not budgeted since the town has expected the permit money for some years but couldn't be sure when they would come in.
So far this year $236,000 has been paid and another $334,000 is expected soon, Mr. Redmond said.
That money won't go toward balancing the budget, since it wasn't budgeted for, Mr. Marconi said. It will instead go toward the town's fund balance account.
The golf course's expected $125,000 deficit was attributed to a tough economy and bad weather, including a week of particularly pleasant weather that was lost during the power outages immediately following Tropical Storm Irene.
The school budget is on course for a modest budget under-run of about $3,000, School Business Manager Paul Hendrickson said, with some big expenses, like pre-funding employees' health savings accounts that will balance out over the year.
This story was originally published Dec. 8, 2011.
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