Ridgefield selectmen’s budget proposal would increase spending 4 percent

Photo of Alyssa Seidman
This month, the Board of Selectmen began looking at budget line items to assess the spending priorities of various departments for fiscal year 2023.

This month, the Board of Selectmen began looking at budget line items to assess the spending priorities of various departments for fiscal year 2023.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — The selectmen have proposed a municipal budget that would raise spending 4 percent over the previous fiscal year.

The plan includes adding new town positions, jump-starting capital projects that had to be canceled and addressing local roads, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The town’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023 is $40.9 million.

This comes as Superintendent Susie Da Silva proposes a $107.4 million spending plan for the upcoming school year, which reflects an increase of 4.9 percent over the previous fiscal year. Board of Education members will vote on the 2022-23 budget at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14.

Board of Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer said he is confident the overall budget increase will come in under 2 percent once finalized, noting that expenses and revenues are “looking pretty good.”

On the town side, officials look to repair local roads, re-bid canceled capital projects planned for fiscal year 2022, and make a few personnel additions.

The selectmen’s proposed budget asks for a $600,000 increase for roads.

Because material costs have increased as a result of ongoing supply chain issues, the town was unable to bring certain projects to fruition.

“One example is the roof over the Veterans Park (Elementary School) gymnasium,” Marconi said. “The suppliers told us the price we received they could barely supply just the materials to get it done for that amount — we’re seeing it everywhere.”

The municipal budget also proposes adding a part-time position at the Building Department to help meet demand. Marconi explained that as people moved to Ridgefield during the pandemic, building requests have increased as those new residents have sought to make modifications to their homes.

Another position being proposed is a mechanic to service both the highway and fire departments, and creating one full-time clerk and one part-time clerk for the highway department.

“Everyone would like to have more people,” Marconi said, “but we ... need to specify and zero in on those areas that are going to be above and beyond what we’re doing today.”

Officials have discussed using American Rescue Plan funds to address capital projects, such as upgrading the HVAC systems at the Parks & Recreation Center, Barlow Mountain Elementary School and the Venus Building. Marconi included that in his proposal.

Marconi said the budgets of respective departments reflect “very nominal” increases when not accounting for unfunded mandates or increased utility costs.

For example, the Recreation Center’s electrical costs are rising by $30,000. Its program expenses increased $50,000, too, but that’s offset by revenue, he said.

Last fall, the Ridgefield Police Department began using body and dashboard cameras to record interactions with civilians as required by state law.

“The annual cost of that is $66,000, (but) if you pull that out of their budget, it’s (a) 1.9 percent (increase),” Marconi said.

Officials recently refunded Ridgefield’s debt from 2012 and 2013, which netted a gross savings of more than $1 million. The savings will be spread out evenly over the next 10 years to help with the town’s debt service.

The debt service continues to come down and is projected to do so over the next two years, which will be “quite helpful” in formulating the final budget, Ulmer said. He added that the town’s 3 percent growth rate would create “some sort of bump” in revenues, as well.

The Board of Selectmen’s next budget meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Feb. 28.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the recommended percent increase and who proposed the budget. The Board of Selectmen have proposed a 4 percent spending increase.