Yes, $144 million is a lot of money. But the tax and spending proposals voters will judge at next week\u2019s budget referendum are reasonable, well thought out, and worthy of support. The tax rate proposed is just a 1.8% increase. The combined operating budgets for town, schools and road repairs \u2014 just over $144,360,000 \u2014 represent a 1.99% increase over the current spending of $141,548,000. The budgets are designed to continue the quality of life Ridgefielders are accustomed to. Question one is the $47-million town budget that supports the solid, dependable town services that provide the foundation for much of day-to-day life \u2014 roads to drive on, police and fire protection, parks, playgrounds, ball fields, and swimming spots. Vote yes. Question two is a $95-million school budget \u2014 the trimmed-down version. The Board of Education\u2019s initial 4.23% increase proposal was cut some $1.5 million by the finance board to the 2.55% increase coming before voters. It pays for buildings, buses, but mostly people \u2014 teachers, principals, paras, secretaries, and custodians \u2014 to continue the high-quality education Ridgefield parents expect so their children can grow, learn, get into good universities, and develop into well-rounded, productive citizens. There isn\u2019t a more important thing we could spend money on. Question three is $1.8 million that goes mostly to road reconstruction \u2014 drainage work, repaving \u2014 done through a collaboration of the town highway department and contractors it brings in. There are more than 400 town roads stretching over 150 miles, and every winter they are assaulted by snow and ice, freezing and thawing. It takes money to keep them up. Questions four through eight are for capital expenditures to be paid for with borrowing \u2014 a sensible way to finance more expensive improvements and equipment that will serve taxpayers for years to come. Town officials limit borrowing and both the debt and debt service are decreasing. Total debt is about $60 million \u2014 down from a high of near $140 million during construction of the \u201cschool bundle\u201d in the early 2000 years. Debt service, $11,523,000 this year, declines to $11,037,000 next year. Question four is $1.3 million to renovate the south wing of the Venus Building so school offices can be moved there \u2014 allowing for expansion of the Ridgefield Playhouse into adjacent space the school offices now occupy. The Playhouse \u2014 which will finance its renovations with private fund raising \u2014 attracts people to town with its shows. They stroll the village, eat in restaurants, spend money. Playhouse officials see the planned expansion as critical to its long-term financial health \u2014 which makes the Venus project critical for Ridgefield. Question five is $570,000 for a 63-car parking lot in the wooded area east of lower Bailey Avenue (north of the current Governor Street lot). The idea is provide parking for employees who work in the village, opening up spots closer to shops and restaurants for customers and shoppers. The Parking Authority is revising its permit and enforcement system to make it work. The lots on Bailey Avenue and Governor Street are near capacity every day. More parking \u2014 vital to any retail district \u2014 is desperately needed. Question six is $508,000 for three roof replacements, continuing sidewalk work, and a much-needed study of the often overburdened village storm drainage system. Storms and floods are getting worse, and the roofs and drainage need to get better. Question seven allocates $690,000 to buy a new pumper-tanker for the fire department and $196,000 to replace one of the highway department\u2019s big red Mack dump trucks \u2014 the vehicles that do the brunt of the town\u2019s plowing. The town replaces one a year. Vote yes. Question eight is $949,000 for a variety of school capital projects \u2014 oil tank replacement, continuing asbestos removal, repair of a cooling tower at the high school \u2014 and also includes \u201ctechnology and safety\u201d upgrades to school buildings \u2014 door locks, film to strengthen glass against assaults and shattering, an entrance vestibule for East Ridge Middle School, and computer technology that building security systems are tied into. Yes, of course.