Auditors confirm Ridgefield surplus exceeds $1.2 million
A hefty surplus — exceeding $1.2 million and arguably over $2.8 million — has been confirmed by the town’s auditors for the last completed fiscal year, 2018-19, when town and school funding was budgeted at about $144.4 million.
The town’s accounting practices were also endorsed as sound by the auditors who reviewed town books for 2018-19, the fiscal year that ended June 30.
“We’ve issued an unmodified or clean opinion for the Town of Ridgefield,” Vanessa Rossitto of the auditing firm Blum, Shapiro & Company told the Board of Finance meeting Wednesday night, Dec. 18.
Town and school spending was $143,566,062, under budget by $844,306
Town revenues for 2018-19 were $144,835,357, exceeding projections by $424,989 — or arguably $2,024,989.
That leaves the town either $1,269,295 — or $2,869,295 — in surplus.
The difference depends on how the calculations account for the fact that the town didn’t use any of $1.6 million that had been budgeted to be drawn as revenue from the town’s more than $15 million fund balance — the “fund balance” being the town’s running multi-year surplus.
If the unspent fund balance allocation is left out, the year ended with a surplus of $1,269,295.
If the $1,600,000 in unspent fund balance is counted — it was, after all, allocated and unspent — the 2018-19 year ended with a $2,869,295 surplus.
The argument for not counting the $1,600,000 is that while the money wasn’t pulled from fund balance and spent in 2018-19, the budget for 2019-20 — the current fiscal year — includes as revenue a similar potential allocation from fund balance, actually an allocation of slightly more: $1,675,000.
Last year’s surplus is now part of the town’s more than $15 million surplus fund balance.
The draft auditors’ report showed an “unassigned” fund balance of $15,350,654.
“The important number for this board is the $15.35 million,” Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer told the meeting, which included two new board members, Michael Rettiger and Greg Kabasakalian. “That’s our rainy day fund.”
Ulmer added, “That $15.35 million is a little over 10 percent of our budget.”
(The auditors also reported “total fund balances” of $17,972,110 — but that figure counts $946,455 that is still subject to encumbrances by the Board of Education, and it also includes the $1,675,000 that the finance board has allocated for use as revenue — but that hasn’t yet been spent — in the current year’s 2019-20 budget of nearly $147,848,000.)
The auditors report shows the town with debt of about $63 million and an anticipated debt service payment of a little over $11 million for the current year.
The annual debt payment — which hits taxpayers in the budget each year — is projected to decline from more than $11 million this year to about $6.5 million by 2022-23.
This is due to the expiration of bond payments from borrowing the $90 million “school bundle” that was approved in 2000 to finance expansions or renovations of all the town’s nine school buildings.
“In 2022-23, you really see some declines in debt service,” Ulmer said. “The last of the 20-year bonds for the bundle was in 2003.”
Of course, substantial additional borrowing is anticipated in upcoming years for construction projects addressing the shortcomings of the police and fire stations.
And, spending is just starting for the $48 million sewer project — with borrowing likely to start in February. Of the $48 million, approximately $12 million is expected to be covered by grants, $8 million will be repaid by general taxpayers, with the remaining debt to be carried by sewer users.