A $4.5-million capital budget — major purchases and projects to be paid for with borrowing — was approved by the Board of Selectmen for 2019-20 and will be reviewed by the Board of Finance.
“It’s a little higher than we had hoped,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said of list that includes requests by all town departments and the school system.
The capital budget will be up for comment — along with the requested town and school operating budgets — at the finance board’s public hearing Monday, March 25, starting at 7:30 in the East Ridge Middle School auditorium.
Because it is paid with bonding, the capital budget differs from the operating budgets in that it doesn’t impact next year’s tax rate — although repayment of the borrowing will hit budgets in later years.
Proposed capital purchases range from a $1.2 million ladder truck for the fire department to a $4,600 “snow pusher” plow that the highway department wants to be able to put on a loader.
Repair and maintenance projects listed in the proposed capital budget range from rebuilding East Ridge Middle School’s deteriorated front steps ($122,000) to re-doing basketball and tennis courts at the Venus Building ($52,000) and Ridgefield High School ($12,000) to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades at the Venus Building ($475,000) and Recreation Center ($320,000).
The capital plan includes town and school requests and always entails some tough decisions as department heads see needs and the selectmen and finance board grapple with costs that can mount up quickly.
School requests
“We have $1.6 million for the Board of Education,” Marconi said. “...When you’re trying to limit something to $4 million it eats up a big chunk of it, right out of the box.”
The schools’ capital request include $466,000 for a network infrastructure replacement program that has a safety aspect since it includes servers involved in operating door locking systems. 
There’s also $168,000 for servers that store information for school security cameras.
The schools seek $187,000 for environmental compliance work that includes removing oil tanks at Veterans Park Elementary School and East Ridge Middle School, as well as continuation of an asbestos tile replacement project at Scotland School.
A $279,000 line for school energy and water savings projects includes an upgrade to LED lighting in hallways and classrooms in Branchville School and replacement of water-cooled walk-in freezers at Branchville and Farmingville.
Four building improvement projects total $357,000: replacement of the front vestibule at Barlow Mountain School; and three projects at the high school — replacing a gym floor, auditorium lighting and library carpeting.
The schools also seek $208,000 for equipment replacements. 
Fire truck
For town departments, the highest-priced item is a $1.2 million ladder truck sought by the fire department. But the cost to local taxpayers would be substantially reduced if the town is successful in getting a $900,000 grant it is seeking. “We’re looking for a net of about $300,000,” Marconi said.
The town would also sell the old ladder truck. “We don’t know what we’ll get for that — it’s a 1986,” Marconi said. “We’ll get something.”
Another fairly costly item is a $255,000 road sweeper for the highway department. — “They’ve been asking for that for about five years,” Marconi said.
Also among the highway department requests are $197,000 for a new Mack dump truck and $40,000 for guardrail replacements.
The capital requests by town departments cover a wide range — mowers, oil tanks, trees.
The golf course wants $80,000 for a large area rotary mower.
Two among the parks and recreation department’s eight requests are: $98,000 to complete its ongoing locker room repairs — the water in the walls problem — and $20,000 for replacement of playground fencing on the Branchville School grounds (the town handles exterior school repairs).
The town engineer’s 11-item list includes: roof repairs at two schools, Scotland ($94,000) and Branchville ($90,000); underground tank removals at Yanity gym ($22,000), town hall ($14,000) and the police station ($12,000); $150,000 for sidewalk work.
The tree warden wants $55,000 for replacement trees.
The police department is seeking $14,000 for laser crash and crime scene mapping system, and also a recording system upgrade.
Besides the ladder truck, the fire department is seeking: $62,000 for firefighters’ protective gear; $20,000 for air tanks; $30,000 for cardiac monitor/defibrillators, and $19,000 for a CPR device
The town’s information technology department wants $99,000 for upgrades of routers and switches.
Planning and Zoning is seeking $44,000 for the second — and final — year of a consultant’s effort to help produce a new town plan.
The library is seeking $26,000 to replace the material handling system known as “the beast.” which automatically reads catalog numbers and sorts returned books, recordings and the like. The library also wants $13,000 for lighting improvements and $20,000 to replace patron and staff computers.