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Ridgefield voters approve town, school budgets and capital projects

May 10, 2017 GMT

RIDGEFIELD — Voters have approved a $141.54 million budget for next year and nearly $3.9 million in capital projects for the town and schools.

The budget, which includes a town budget of $47.07 million and a $92.63 million school budget, will increase taxes by 1.92 percent next year. Included in the budget is $1.84 million for roads and infrastructure.

The results, which are unofficial, were reported by First Selectman Rudy Marconi after polls closed Tuesday night.

“We’re very pleased that the voters turned out and passed everything,” Marconi said. “We appreciate those who did come out and vote for doing so.”

Voters approved the town budget by a vote of 1,843-595, and the school budget by 1,478-960. Marconi said 2,444 votes were cast, about 13 percent of the town’s 18,000 registered voters.

The school board cut about $1 million from its proposal last month. The $92.63 million school budget will be an increase of 2.5 percent over this year’s spending. The finance board cut $884,000 from the schools’ original proposal with potential cuts in state education aid in mind.

The biggest driver of the schools’ increase was employee health insurance costs. About $14.4 million of the original budget proposal was allotted for benefits, which increased 9.18 percent over this year, Superintendent Karen Baldwin said in a budget hearing last month.

The town operating budget of $35.55 million is a 2.45 percent increase over this year’s spending after the finance board made $60,000 in cuts to the selectmen’s original proposal.

Board of Finance Chair Dave Ulmer said board members decided to use about $1.8 million from the town’s fund balance to keep the tax increase under 2 percent. Property taxes will increase 1.92 percent under the budgets, making the new mill rate $27.21 for every $1,000 assesed valuation.

Several capital projects, totaling about $3.9 million, were approved Tuesday.

The projects include $900,000 for improvements to the Branchville train station area, which the town has applied to be covered by a state grant. Marconi said the money will cover phase one, including adding sidewalks to make it more user-friendly, of the total $2 million plan for the area after a transit-oriented development study was completed this year.

But he said the town won’t move forward without the state money.

“Nothing gets spent unless we receive the grant,” Marconi said.

A $950,000 project was approved to pay for repairs to the town’s Recreation Center, where leaking pipes have caused structural damage in the walls.

About $988,000 was approved to buy several town vehicles and to replace the town’s fuel tanks, which were red-tagged by the state last month.

Three school projects, totaling about $1 million, were approved. The schools expect to save about $250,000 through a energy-conservation plan that will cost $378,000. The other two projects include $550,000 for an upgrade to the phone system and $106,000 in sidewalk and curbing repairs.

Voters already approved 32 capital projects, all under $100,000, at last week’s town budget meeting.