A $141.5-million town and school spending plan, with a 1.92% tax increase, will be judged by voters in a daylong referendum Tuesday, May 9. \u201cHow you vote is your personal decision,\u201d First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Tuesday. \u201cMy ask is that you do vote, please.\u201d The voting will be from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and residents of all districts will vote at Yanity gym off Prospect Street, behind the Venus Municipal Building. Voters will be able to vote Yes or No on separate questions concerning $92.6 million in school spending, $47.1 million in town spending, and $1.84 million in road and infrastructure improvements \u2014 all of which make up the roughly $141.5-million 2017-18 operating budget behind the proposed tax rate. Voters will also consider close to $3.9 million in capital spending on construction projects and equipment purchases that would be paid for by borrowing in the bond market \u2014 so they shouldn\u2019t push up next year\u2019s taxes but would add to debt service in future years. Major capital spending proposals include renovating the town\u2019s fuel depot, repairing water-damaged walls in the Recreation Center, a new phone system for the schools, and an ambulance for the fire department. Another $1.3 million in projects and purchases under $100,000 was approved by voters at Monday night\u2019s Annual Town Meeting.\u00a0 All town voters \u2014 more than 18,000 people \u2014 may take part in the budget referendum, and ballots may also be cast by people who aren\u2019t town voters but are 18 or older, U.S. citizens, and pay taxes to the town on real estate or a car worth more than $1,000. Absentee ballots will be available at the town clerk\u2019s office in town hall from 8:30 to 4:30 weekdays, through Monday, May 8. And on Saturday, May 6, Town Clerk Barbara Serfilippi will have special absentee voting hours from 9 to 12 in town hall. The tax and spending proposal put forward by the Board of Finance represents a $2,535,000 increase from the current budget of $139,013,000, to $141,548,000. That\u2019s a 1.82% increase over this year\u2019s spending, slightly less than the 1.92% tax rate increase proposed. That\u2019s because the finance board reduced \u2014 from $1,950,000 this year to $1,800,000 next year \u2014 the amount of money it will pull out of the town\u2019s roughly $14-million surplus fund balance for use as non-tax revenue in the budget. \u201cWe do like to keep taxes under a 2% increase every year \u2014 that\u2019s kind of in line with inflation,\u201d Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer said Monday. The finance board\u2019s general guideline is to keep the fund balance at about 8% to 9% of revenue. With the proposed use of $1.8 million as revenue in the 2017-18 budget \u2014 balanced by an expected surplus of about $1.5 million from the current year \u2014 the fund balance should be about $13.4 million, or 9.7%, at the June-July turn of the fiscal year, Ulmer said. Town budget The town budget listed in Question 1 is $47,075,000. That total includes $35,552,000 in spending by town departments \u2014 police, fire, highway, parks and recreation, town administration \u2014 and also $11,523,000 in debt service. The finance board cut the budget by $60,000. The more than $35 million in town departments\u2019 spending is a 2.45% increase, and debt service is decreasing 4.46% from the current year\u2019s $12,060,000. The only substantial addition in the town\u2019s operating budget, Marconi said, was adding about $150,000 to move to a full year of eight-man minimum shifts at the fire department that started in January. With the eight-man minimum, both fire trucks and both ambulances on duty would have two firefighters assigned to them every shift. \u201cIt helps improve response time and the efficiency of operations,\u201d Marconi said. Road maintenance and infrastructure spending in Question 3 totals $1,840,000. That total is down 1.87% from last year\u2019s $1,8750,000. The bulk of it would be for \u201cvarious town road and infrastructure improvements\u201d \u2014 mostly road repaving. It also includes $75,000 specifically designated for projects to improve town compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It\u2019s one step in an initiative expected to extend over many years, bringing town facilities up to ADA standards. \u201cThis year we\u2019ll be paving around the high school,\u201d Marconi said, creating paths for wheelchairs to get to various outdoor facilities. School budget School spending would increase from $90,374,000 to $92,634,000 \u2014 an increase of $2,535,000, or 2.5%. The school board had initially sought a 3.48% spending increase, but the finance board cut the request by $884,000, yielding the 2.5% increase being presented to voters. The school board made cuts to accommodate the finance board reduction at its April 24 meeting. The proposed Board of Education budget will appear as Question 2 on the referendum ballot. School Superintendent Karen Baldwin said Monday night that the school board had worked to hold down the budget. They\u2019d looked at closing one of the six elementary schools, with the consultants Milone & MacBroom studying it. \u201cDo we have the space to do that? The answer, by Milone & MacBroom: We don\u2019t \u2014 at this point,\u201d Baldwin said. While Ridgefield has lower per-pupil spending than most schools in its district reference group, Baldwin said, its educational results are still good. \u201cRidgefield does very well,\u201d she said. \u201cRidgefield High School is No. 4 in the state, and one of the top 300 in the country.\u201d And based on state criteria, \u201cour six elementary schools are all \u2019schools of distinction,\u2019\u201d Baldwin said. \u201cI commend the budget to you.\u201d Capital questions Following the first three questions on the town, school and roads operating budgets, voters will be asked to decide four questions on various capital spending proposals. Question 4 is $900,000 for infrastructure improvements in the Branchville area, and Marconi has said the work would be undertaken only if a state grant the town has applied for comes through and would cover the cost. \u201cBranchville represents economic growth for us,\u201d Marconi said. \u201cWe have the train station there, bus service.\u201d Question 5 is for just under $989,000, including $400,000 for the state-mandated replacement of 30-year-old tanks at the town\u2019s fuel depot. Also included in the question are three pieces of equipment: $235,000 for a new ambulance, $183,000 for one of the big Mack dump trucks used for plowing, and $171,000 for a John Deere loader. The town keeps three ambulances \u2014 two in daily service, and the oldest as a backup. Marconi said the town has 17 of the big trucks it uses to get the roads plowed, and replaces one a year. The fuel depot\u2019s problems have prompted criticism \u2014 but still have to be addressed, Marconi said. \u201cWe\u2019ve gotten some angry calls. There\u2019s no spillage, no leakage.\u201d Question 6 is $950,000 for major repairs at the Recreation Center, where water penetration from leaks inside the walls has done a lot of damage. \u201cWe had leaking pipes overhead for years and years, and were not aware of it,\u201d Marconi said. Question 7 is $1,035,000 for the school system projects, the largest being $550,000 for the replacement of the telephone system throughout the schools, where phones are reported to be down about 20% of the time. From July 2015 to December 2016, school officials counted 50 phone outages totaling 125 hours of downtime \u2014 it\u2019s a problem they describe as a safety issue for students, as well as an annoyance for staff. \u201cThey\u2019ve had tremendous issues with phones being out,\u201d Marconi said. \u201cIt\u2019s something that needs to be done.\u201d There would also be $379,000 in \u201cenergy conservation measures\u201d at several schools, including LED lighting and \u201cvariable frequency drives\u201d on hot water pumps. The projects, the final ones in a three-year initiative, are expected to bring back $250,000 in incentive savings under a letter of agreement with Eversource. Also included is $106,000 for the school sidewalks and curbing \u2014 repairs in the high school\u2019s courtyard.