Ridgefielders could see nominal tax increase in upcoming budget, finance chair says

Photo of Alyssa Seidman
Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer anticipates the board will use some of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023, which could result in around a 1 percent increase depending on the decided dollar amount, he said.

Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer anticipates the board will use some of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023, which could result in around a 1 percent increase depending on the decided dollar amount, he said.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer anticipates the board will use some of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023, which could result in an increase around 1 percent.

The board has an established policy to maintain the fund balance as roughly equal to 8-9 percent of the annual operating budget to protect against dramatic budget adjustments in the event of adverse economic situations. It also has an informal goal of pushing budget surpluses into the next fiscal year to offset unnecessary tax increases.

“We’re gonna have a pretty good revenue surplus … in 2022,” Ulmer said.

The Board of Selectmen have proposed a $40.8 million municipal budget that would raise spending 3.8 percent over the previous fiscal year. Another $107 million is proposed to go to the schools, with $8.27 million targeted for debt services.

Residents can weigh in on the combined $156 million plan at a public budget hearing on Monday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Park Elementary School (8 Governor St.).

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

In addition to new roles at the building and highway departments, the town is also proposing a part-time recycling coordinator at a cost of $18,000.

Marconi said the hours for this position could increase depending on the amount of receipts collected from alcohol retailers as relative to a new state law, which charges a 5 cent surcharge on each bottle of liquor that is 50 milliliters or smaller.

The 5 cent surcharge will be clearly marked on customers’ receipts but will be paid by the retailers when buying from distributors. Then, starting in April and every six months after, those funds for each bottle will be paid by the distributor to the municipality the bottle was sold in. Information on the sales must also be filed with the state.

“When you look at the anticipated revenue from that for Ridgefield and break it down into how many bottles that represents, the numbers indicate an approximate 350 plus (bottles) per day,” Marconi said. “They’re everywhere on the sides of the street, so we really need to begin cleaning that up and taking care of that.”

The Board of Education adopted a $107.2 million spending plan for the schools, an increase of 4.79 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Almost 80 percent of the adopted budget accounts for salaries and employee benefits. It also reflects a 19 percent increase in special education outplacement and tuition costs based on the district’s growing population of students with special needs.

The Board of Selectmen recently made a non-binding recommendation for the schools’ proposed budget to reflect a 4 percent increase from fiscal year 2022.

“Which means that the Board of Finance can add or cut to what goes to referendum,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva said. “We are hopeful they’ll keep the 4.79 percent because that is what we really need. … No cuts can be made that don’t impact programs.”

These “high costs” address special education, mental health support and the academic challenges facing the district, Da Silva said.

Details of the municipal operating budget can be found at www.ridgefieldct.org. The schools’ budget can be found at www.ridgefield.org.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com