Ridgefield nets gross savings of $1 million after refunding debt

During the town’s tri-board meeting Tuesday night, Controller Kevin Redmond provided attendees an overview of the 2021 fiscal year.

During the town’s tri-board meeting Tuesday night, Controller Kevin Redmond provided attendees an overview of the 2021 fiscal year.

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RIDGEFIELD — This month, town officials opened bids to refund Ridgefield’s debt from 2012 and 2013. The lowest bid came in at roughly 1.2 percent, Town Treasurer Molly McGeehin said, which will net Ridgefield a gross savings of more than $1 million.

Controller Kevin Redmond said those savings would be spread out evenly over the next 10 years, and will help the town’s debt service situation.

During Ridgefield’s tri-board meeting Tuesday night, Redmond reported that the debt service continues to come down, and is projected to do so over the next two years. He noted, however, that it would likely creep back up depending on the cost of the anticipated combined public safety facility for the town’s fire and police departments.

Redmond provided attendees an overview of the 2021 fiscal year. The budget’s positive standings, he explained, were driven by two components: taxes and real estate.

Since many out-of-towners relocated to Ridgefield during the pandemic, tax collection rates surged past the town’s “historical” 98.7 percent collection rate, Redmond explained. Conveyance and recording rates were also positive, another result of the hot real estate market, he added.

Parks and recreation revenues and ambulance revenues softened in fiscal year ‘21, but golf revenues were strong, Redmond said. He noted that the numbers were likely driven by the pandemic. Many other departments are also registering positive numbers despite covering baked in COVID costs, he added.

The budget’s positive standing will enable the town to only use $800,000 of its designated $3.5 million fund balance for fiscal year ‘21.

“That means we have a lot more undesignated fund balance to use, potentially,” Redmond said.

Though only four months into the current fiscal year, Redmond said budget lines reflect a “continuation” of trends from fiscal year ‘21. Tax collections, conveyance and recordings are holding strong, and expenses present minimal “red flags,” he said.

Two “hot areas” under the current operating budget include ash tree removal and overtime at the fire department, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

Marconi also briefed attendees on the town’s use of its American Rescue Plan monies, which initially totaled about $7.4 million.

In August, the Board of Finance codified a provision in this year’s budget to reduce the tax rate from 1.7 percent to 0.3 percent. The reduction was made possible through a $1.5 million allocation of the federal stimulus.

Last month, voters approved a $2.9 million ARPA allocation for the Route 7 sewer project. The monies will partially fund the construction of a new force-main sewer line connecting the District II sewer plant to the upgraded District I plant on South Street.

The town has established an informal working group to make determinations on how to use the remaining funds based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. As with normal budgetary proceedings, the expenditures would have to be approved via public hearings, town meetings or a natural referendum.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com