Budget adjustments have been made — $130,000 by the school board, and $60,000 by the selectmen — and a $128-million 2013-14 budget proposal is headed to voters.
In two weeks voters will gather at the annual town meeting, scheduled for Monday, May 6, starting at 7:30 in The Ridgefield Playhouse auditorium, to officially set the date of the annual budget referendum. First Selectman Rudy Marconi is recommending Tuesday, May 14, for the day-long machine vote. The finance board’s recommended operating budgets are:
• $82.9 million to operate the schools;
• $32.3 million for town departments.
The finance board also approved a $3.6 million in capital spending, which will be voted on at both the annual meeting and the referendum.
The budgets that will face voters are detailed in a four-page legal notice on pages 15A to 18A of this issue.
In addition date-setting and general discussion, the May 6 Annual Town Meeting will consider a long list of capital spending proposals — trucks, software, repair projects — that are under $100,000 each, and therefore may be approved on by the town meeting, not the referendum.
Other, mostly larger capital spending proposals — from road repairs to a children spray park — will face the voters in the referendum questions.
To get the tax increase down to 1.95% the finance board made $190,000 cut — reducing the school request by $130,000 and the selectmen’s budget for town departments by $60,000.
Monday night the school board found where in its $83 million request the cuts would come. Acting on Superintendent Deborah Low’s recommendation, the board voted unanimously to take: $40,000 from non-certified pension contribution; $20,000 from diesel fuel; $10,000 for heating oil; $30,000 from workmen’s compensation; and $30,000 from the staff turnover allowance. (See other story.)
The selectmen also made their $60,000 in cuts on a unanimous vote, at their April 10 meeting — but not without voicing numerous vehement objections at what they viewed as the finance board’s arbitrary action.
“I feel they’re penalizing the board that really did try to do the right job by the people of Ridgefield,” Mr. Marconi said.
“The reality is, you’re cutting basic services and you’re digging yourself a hole for following year,” said Selectman Andy Bodner. “If you want $60,000, we’re going to have to find an activity and take it away. When you spread it around, you mask it.”
Throughout a long discussion, the selectmen kept flirting with the idea of taking the entire cut out of the money allocated for the finance board’s annual audit by an outside accounting firm.
“Cut out the auditor, and let them find the money,” said Selectwoman Barbara Manners.
In the end, the selectmen agreed to spread the pain around some. The cuts they finally agreed upon were: $10,000 from a Parks and Recreation “sinking fund” for restoration of Scotts Ridge artificial turf field; $10,000 from Parks and Recreation’s programming budget; $15,000 from the Library; $10,000 from the contingency account; $10,000 from the budget for the annual audit; and $5,000 from the Police Department budget.