Editorial: Six ‘yes,’ one ‘no’

With a less than 2% tax increase, the spending plans town and school officials have put together would deliver needed services and tackle the town’s most urgent problems. Voters should support them in Tuesday’s budget referendum — with one exception.

The operating budgets — $47 million for the town in Question 1, $93 million for the schools in Question 2, $1.8 million for roads in Question 3 — reflect sound values and competent management. The budget would serve all Ridgefielders — from folks who’d drive on newly paved roads to wheelchair users who’d get new cart paths.

Pressing town needs are addressed in the capital budget questions. Question 5 includes a must-do renovation of the fuel depot, an ambulance, and a dump truck and loader for the Highway Department. Question 6 would finance much-needed repairs of water damage that threatens the Recreation Center’s status as a prime revenue generator. It’s a great place for folks to get fit and have fun — the town needs to take care of it. Question 7 would replace the schools system’s problematic phones, reported last year to be down about 20% of the time, and includes some common-sense energy-saving projects. The phones are a safety issue, and the energy projects trigger incentive payments from the utility and would save on operating costs for years.

The $900,000 Branchville redevelopment plan in Question 4 is meant to spark economic development and “smart growth” around the train station — sound concepts. The town says it will pursue the project only if state grants cover the cost. For decades, town officials have seen more development as the answer to rising taxes. But do townspeople really want to change Branchville into a rival commercial center to downtown? And if the town doesn’t feel strongly enough about the project to pay the $900,000 cost without a grant, by what logic should the taxpayers of the fiscally struggling state finance it? Folks inclined to vote no to something should look at Question 4.