Vot­ers to de­cide projects, pur­chases

Of­fi­cials will dis­cuss state of town, schools and bud­gets Mon­day night

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Mack­lin Reid On the agenda

Trucks, tanks, trees, plows and paint­ing jobs — nearly $900,000 worth of projects and pur­chases pro­posed as cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures in 2019-20 town bud­get will be put be­fore vot­ers at the an­nual town meet­ing on Mon­day.

Res­i­dents will also be asked to af­firm the May 14 date set for the ref­er­en­dum vote on the $148 mil­lion town and school op­er­at­ing bud­gets.

Vot­ing that day would take place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Yan­ity gym.

Mon­day’s meet­ing, mean­while, will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Ridgefield Play­house.

While the op­er­at­ing bud­gets are sent to vot­ers at the ref­er­en­dum, they are some­times the sub­ject of ques­tions and dis­cus­sion at the an­nual town meet­ing.

At the ref­er­en­dum, vot­ers will de­cide ques­tions on the fi­nance board’s pro­pos­als for a $98 mil­lion school bud­get rep­re­sent­ing a 3.36 per­cent spend­ing in­crease and a $38 mil­lion town de­part­ments bud­get, re­flect­ing a zero per­cent in­crease.

The town bud­get also in­cludes about $11 mil­lion for debt ser­vice and there would be $1.8 mil­lion for roads and in­fra­struc­ture main­te­nance that will likely be a sep­a­rate ques­tion.

The ref­er­en­dum will also ask vot­ers to ap­prove some of the more ex­pen­sive cap­i­tal spend­ing pro­pos­als, such as a $1.2 mil­lion lad­der truck for the fire depart­ment, $466,000 for school com­puter net­work in­fra­struc­ture re­place­ments, and $279,000 for school en­ergy and wa­ter sav­ing projects.

While the ma­chine-vote ref­er­en­dum bal­lot­ing will in­clude the more ex­pen­sive cap­i­tal spend­ing pro­pos­als, the less costly items — gen­er­ally, those un­der $100,000 each — will be up for dis­cus­sion and ap­proval or re­jec­tion by vot­ers who gather in Play­house on Mon­day.

“It’ll be done by depart­ment,” First Select­man Rudy Mar­coni said.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of each depart­ment will be there if there are any ques­tions.”

The $898,100 in pro­posed cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures to be voted on Mon­day in­clude con­struc­tion jobs and equip­ment pur­chases — both re­place­ment and new ac­qui­si­tions — rang­ing from trucks and plows for the high­way depart­ment, to trees for the tree war­den, mow­ers for the golf course and parks depart­ment, re­place­ment of oil tanks and doors, the paint­ing of school in­te­ri­ors.

The Parks and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment has the largest to­tal, nearly $305,000 up for a vote at Mon­day’s meet­ing, and also the most costly sin­gle item — $98,500 to com­plete on­go­ing locker room re­pairs at the re­cre­ation cen­ter.

Parks and Re­cre­ation Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials had to an­swer a lot of ques­tions from both the se­lect­men and the fi­nance board over the re­quest for an­other $98,500 to fin­ish what’s al­ready a roughly $1 mil­lion project to re­pair ex­ten­sive wa­ter dam­age in the re­cre­ation cen­ter walls.

Phil Kearns, chair­man of the parks com­mis­sion, re­called the way the orig­i­nal $1 mil­lion re­quest had been trimmed by one board af­ter an­other in the ap­proval process last year, and said it wasn’t re­ally sur­pris­ing that more money is needed to fin­ish the job prop­erly.

Other re­pair and main­te­nance projects in the parks and re­cre­ation cap­i­tal bud­get that are go­ing to the vot­ers at Mon­day’s meet­ing in­clude: re­do­ing bas­ket­ball and ten­nis courts at the Venus com­plex and Ridgefield High School; $60,000 for safety im­prove­ments; and play­ground fenc­ing at Branchvill­e School.

On the op­er­at­ing bud­gets go­ing to ref­er­en­dum, Mar­coni noted that the se­lect­men ap­proved a town de­part­ments bud­get at a zero per­cent in­crease, which was sub­se­quently ap­proved by the fi­nance board, but had rec­om­mended a slightly larger cut to the school bud­get than the fi­nance board made. The se­lect­men’s rec­om­men­da­tion on the school bud­get called for a $460,000 cut to the $98 mil­lion school bud­get, and the fi­nance re­duced the school re­quest by half that, $230,000.

The $148 mil­lion town and school op­er­at­ing bud­get which will go ref­er­en­dum would, if ap­proved, re­quired a 1.24 per­cent tax in­crease.

The cap­i­tal bud­get pro­pos­als — both those voted on at the an­nual town meet­ing and those go­ing on to vot­ers at the ref­er­en­dum — wouldn’t show up in next year’s tax in­crease be­cause they would be fi­nanced with bor­row­ing in the bond mar­ket.

But re­pay­ment of the bonds would show up in sub­se­quent years’ bud­gets.

Mack­lin Reid / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Phil Kearns, chair­man of the Ridgefield parks com­mis­sion, right, and David Shofi. At the an­nual town meet­ing on Mon­day, vot­ers will de­cide on the fi­nance board’s pro­posal to give the Parks and Re­cre­ation Com­mis­sion nearly $305,000 in cap­tial ex­pe­d­i­tures.

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