We, in government service, must make prudent decisions when representing every Ridgefield resident. Our approach to addressing the current budget crisis must be data-driven and consider all factors regarding the long- and short-term consequences to our town. We must be certain that our decisions are not guided by emotion or ideologies.

COVID-19 health risks prompted the governor to issue Executive Order 7I suspending the “in-person” budget adoption, and provided the Board of Selectmen (BOS) with the authority to authorize the Board of Finance (BOF) to adopt a budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

We are in unprecedented times, and difficult decisions will have to be made. At a Tri-Board meeting last Wednesday, elected officials from the BOS, BOF, and the Board of Education (BOE) shared ideas, opinions, and research while discussing both the town and BOE budgets. Officials shared observations that the shutdown would allow for finding retroactive savings in some areas, including spring sports, energy usage in buildings, liability insurance, and transportation contracts, among others. Most members agreed on one thing: there will have to be cuts.

The BOS is meeting this week and will vote on the town operating and capital budgets along with a “non-binding” recommendation on the BOE budget on April 30. The BOF will conduct its review and analysis of the proposed budgets in May. Taking into consideration the BOS recommendation, the BOF will cast its vote in early June.

Schools

The largest budget item in town and deserving of utmost care is, of course, our schools and education. The school superintendent and the BOE have exclusive jurisdiction to make all decisions regarding the school budget, including each line item, based on what they believe to be in the best interests of the students.

As a town, we know the merit of an excellent school system and its impact on the value of our homes. We also recognize and appreciate the quality of our teachers and the passion and dedication they bring into the classroom every day. Our elected officials and residents’ interests are aligned in this premise.

The three boards will continue to work over the next several weeks, and collectively we will ask the hard questions, think creatively, research and analyze data, and do our best to understand and mitigate the impact of our conclusions. We take these decisions very seriously.

Sacrifices

This pandemic has impacted everyone in Ridgefield. People have lost their jobs and their incomes and are at risk of losing their homes. Our local businesses are struggling, and some may be forever shuttered, causing terrible financial hardship. And others have lost family members to COVID-19, and their suffering will be far greater.

Our town is hurting, and we will have to make continued sacrifices. Our elected officials will be the voice of all of Ridgefield residents. And, through this crisis, let’s have faith that they will make the difficult decisions that will be in the best interests of every adult, child, and business.

Today, we are facing seemingly unbearable challenges, challenges that will ultimately inspire our vibrant and caring community to make Ridgefield even stronger tomorrow.

Bob Hebert is a member of the Board of Selectmen and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 111th District seat in the state House of Representatives. The column is provided by the Republican Town Committee.