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Finance board moves road money, approves budget with 2.49% tax hike

After taking a step that would mean higher taxes next year but a savings for taxpayers in the longer run, the Board of Finance approved a 2014-15 budget of just over $133,367,000 on Thursday, requiring a 2.49% tax increase next year.

The finance board’s budget proposal will be presented at the May 5 Annual Town Meeting and approved or rejected by voters in a May 13 budget referendum.

The finance board finished three nights of budget work by taking the road repaving and repair costs — requested at $2 million, but cut to $1.85 million — and moving them out of the capital budget, financed through borrowing, and into the operating budget that would be paid directly from next year’s taxes.

This increased the combined town and school budget from $131,512,000, as requested by the selectmen and school board, and raised the final number to $133,367,000 that the finance board will put before voters in May.

And that would have pushed the tax rate increase needed next year from a projected 1.84% to 3.26%. However, the finance board also voted to use $900,000 of the town’s roughly $12 million surplus fund balance to hold down taxes, lowering the tax rate increase needed for the road-fattened spending plan from the 3.26% to 2.49%.

The finance board made no cuts to the school board’s or the selectmen’s spending requests — other than trimming the money for road work from the $2 million the selectman had asked for to $1.85 million as they moved it from the capital budget to the operating budget.

Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer said Friday that at a 3.5% interest rate — about what the town got in December, the last time it went to the bond market — the interest on the $1,850,000 for next year’s road work would amount to $725,000 over the 20-year life of the bond.

So, if bonded for 20 years, the $1.85 million worth of road work would cost taxpayers about $2.6 million, over the 20 years.

The town has been bonding more than $1-million each year for the annual road work, and doing it year after year.

So, the savings from changing to a pay-as-you-go approach should be substantial over time — if the town sticks with the new approach, as town officials envision.

“It adds up to literally multi-millions by getting this into operating each year,” Mr. Ulmer said Friday.

 

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  • SL

    This town is beautiful. The people bend over backwards for you, open doors, say hello, greet each other with respect, laugh, and live non-competitively. The children/teens are respectful, civil, and are peer friendly. The landscape is breathtaking! Plenty to do in this town, no need to escape, flowing traffic, clean, safe, navigable roads, and great people in charge. The sense of community is clear and distinct in that, if anything tragic were to happen here in lovely Ridgefield, CT, we would all come together and unite as one…………only a description of Ridgefield before 1980.

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