Ridgefielders to consider $156 million budget next month

The Board of Finance voted unanimously this week to use $1.55 million of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023. As a result, the combined budget — accounting for the town and schools’ respective spending plans — asks for an increase of .77 percent over the previous fiscal year. It totals $156 million.

The Board of Finance voted unanimously this week to use $1.55 million of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023. As a result, the combined budget — accounting for the town and schools’ respective spending plans — asks for an increase of .77 percent over the previous fiscal year. It totals $156 million.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — The Board of Finance voted unanimously this week to use $1.55 million of the town’s fund balance to offset tax increases for residents in fiscal year 2023.

As a result, the combined budget — accounting for the town and schools’ respective spending plans — asks for an increase of 0.77 percent over the previous fiscal year. It totals $156 million.

The finance board unanimously approved the selectmen’s $40.8 million municipal budget and $8.27 million for debt services to go before voters, as well.

Earlier this year, the Board of Selectmen made a non-binding recommendation for the schools’ initial proposal — which reflected a 4.79 increase from fiscal year 2022 — to instead reflect a 4 percent increase. The Board of Finance, however, set the increase to 4.24 percent, bringing the total down to $106.6 million, a reduction of roughly $534,000.

Finance board members voted 4-1 to adopt the schools’ reduced spending plan for referendum. Member Greg Kabasakalian cast the sole dissenting vote.

Almost 80 percent of the schools’ 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.

“We believed strongly (that) we needed the request that we made,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva said. “In order to mitigate the impact of the reduction, we’ll be using grant money to help fill in some of those gaps.”

Budget reductions were made in the areas of technology repairs, transportation and course recovery, among other items, Da Silva said. She added that the schools may be required to use some of its COVID-19 relief funding to buy textbooks and digital tools for the upcoming school year.

Administrators had planned to use those monies to bolster learning experiences beyond the school day, Da Silva said, including providing a more extensive summer Bridge Program.

“Our goal will be to continue to figure out ways to maximize opportunities for kids,” she added.

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.

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

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

Residents will consider both budgets at the annual town meeting on May 2. If voters approve the plans, they will be sent to referendum on May 10.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com