Inside Education: Ridgefield budget process

The town budget process in Ridgefield can be confusing. The following provides clarity on the journey of the Board of Education (BOE) budget.

The BOE approved its proposed operating budget for 2017-18 on Feb. 27 with a total YTY increase of 3.48%. The Town Charter requires the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to review and potentially make a non-binding recommendation to the Board of Finance (BOF) regarding the proposed BOE budget. This year the BOS nonbinding recommendation is to cap the BOE budget at a 2.5% YTY increase.

The BOF then considers town and school budget requests in late March and may ask for reductions to the total BOE budget. The BOF has the power to cut the BOE budget in total amount but not a line item veto. If a cut is made, the BOE then decides how the budget will be reduced based on the best educational practices and needs in Ridgefield.

The operating budget increase percentage is not necessarily the increase in the tax rate. Municipalities in Connecticut apply property taxes in terms of mill rates. The BOF determines a targeted mill rate that it believes will pass the town budget vote in May. To arrive at the targeted mill rate, it sets the BOE and BOS budget numbers that will go to vote, and may also chose to use funds from the town’s surplus as non-tax revenue to further reduce the mill rate.

Once the BOF sets the budgets for the BOE and BOS, the budgets are brought to a Town Meeting for approval to go to referendum in early May for a vote by the residents of Ridgefield.