$35 million budget includes fire shift, raise for Rudy

A $34.7 million town budget that includes money for the eight-man minimum fire shift was approved by the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night. The budget represents a 2.12% increase in town departments’ spending and, at Selectman Steve Zemo’s instigation, adds a roughly $8,000 longevity payment designed to make First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s pay more in line with the salaries of other towns’ chief executives.

“This is a big deal, the eight-man minimum,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Myers, who stayed to the end of Wednesday night’s proceedings. The program is designed to improve the fire department’s average response time to ambulance and fire calls.

In addition to the budget for town departments — police, fire, highway, parks and recreation — the selectmen approved $12 million for debt service and $1.85 million for roads and infrastructure — including $75,000 to get started on a multi-year ADA compliance initiative.

When combined with the $91 million proposed school budget — representing 5.72% increase — the budget is close to $140 million in spending. The budget next goes before the finance board and, after that, town voters.

If the finance board approves the requested spending — and doesn’t dip into the town’s $13 million surplus fund balance for some non-tax revenue — the budget would need a tax increase of a little under 5%.

On Tuesday night the selectmen had voted to recommend to the finance board that the tax rate be held to an increase of 3.5% or less.

In discussion Wednesday night the selectmen noted there been talk from finance board members of possibly using about $1.2 million from fund balance, which would bring the needed tax increase just under 4% — without spending reductions.

Marconi now makes a bit under $128,000, and with the $8,500 longevity payment approved the selectmen he’ll be paid something over $136,000.

Zemo brought up the idea of raising the first selectman salary, and Marconi left the room.

At first Zemo proposed raising his salary to about $150,000.

“He’s supervising four people who make more money than he does,” Zemo said.

“Some communities have a first selectman and a town manager.”

Darien pays $115,000 to its first selectman, and then $160,000 to a town manager.

Westport pays its first selectman $101,000, and pays $92,000 to the town manager.

Weston, a substantially smaller town than Ridgefield, pays its town manager $130,000 and its first selectman $43,000.

In Ridgefield, Marconi fills both roles.

Other selectmen agreed Marconi is undercompensated.

“I’ve watched Rudy put in more hours than there are in a week,” said Barbara Manners.

“I agree with you. No one works as hard as Rudy,” said Maureen Kozlark

But there was concern about how the substantial raise all in one year would be perceived.

“I think it’s a tough sell,” said Bob Hebert.

Discussion produced the idea of adding a longevity bonus of $1,000 a year — for 16 years, it would add $16,000. If a new first selectman took office, with less experience and knowledge, that could be reduced and board could start adding to it as the years if work pile up.

“I’m not sure about getting to that number in one year,” Hebert said of the $16,000.

Eventually Zemo moved to add longevity pay of $500 for every year the first selectmen had worked — $8,000 — and it passed 4-0-1 with Hebert abstaining.

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. The Ridgefield Press, 16 Bailey Avenue, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress