First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said that the $354.7 million overall operating budget proposed by the Board of Selectmen invests in public safety, increases support for the school district, and funds long-term contractual obligations all while “protecting taxpayers.” The BOS budget is up slightly from Kupchick’s initial proposal due to some slight adjustments to health insurance and pension obligations.
Kupchick told the Board of Finance that she sought to balance the needs of the community without overtaxing the residents as much as possible while putting the budget together.
“We’re so lucky to live in Fairfield,” she said, adding that Fairfield was “one of the most economically diverse towns” in Fairfield County. “We want to make sure it’s still an affordable town.”
Proposed Budget by the Numbers
The $354.7 million proposed operating budget is a .98% on the town’s mill rate, which Kupchick said was a goal of her administration.
“We really worked hard to keep this number down,” she said, when she presented the budget to the Board of Selectmen. “Costs have been really high. We wanted to be very cautious about the decisions we made in this budget.”
The breakdown looks like this: about $120.7 million on the town side, up 3.21% from last year; $210.2 million on the Board of Education side, up 3.8% from last; and shared expenses between the two—which mainly includes debt service—is down to $23.6 million or a drop of 8% from last year.
Highlights from the Proposed Budget
The budget increases funding for the school district by $7.7 million, which is $500,000 less than what the Board of Education had requested.
It also includes $2 million to support the paving plan the town started last year to catch up on road paving efforts.
Other investments include:
- Continuing to fund the social worker who was added to the police department last year, who Kupchick said has received more than 100 referrals so far and has connected dozens of those in need with mental health and addiction-related resources. “She has been a very welcome addition to the police department,” Kupchick said.
- Increasing part-time staffing at the library to support teen programming
- Adding a part-time nurse to help with school-based needs
- Adding a new captain to run the Emergency Communications Center and an additional officer
The town, like others across the region and country, is feeling the effects of inflation and high energy costs, according to Kupchick. It also is now paying more to get rid of recycling than it is to dispose of garbage, which has increased expenses.
The Board of Finance has begun its review of the budget. The board is hosting a series of meetings over the next few weeks featuring individual departments presenting their budgets and answering questions. Members of the public have the opportunity to weigh in on the specific budgets as they appear before the Board.
Here’s the full schedule of budget meetings, with some important dates:
- March 25: The Board is hosting a full public comment session at 9:30 a.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe High School where residents can weigh in on any part of the budget.
- March 30: The Board of Finance will vote at 7:30 p.m. on the budget, which would advance it to the Representative Town Meeting, which will also hold at least three meetings on the budget.
- May 1: The Representative Town Meeting will vote on the budget.May 4: The Board of Finance will set the official mill rate for the upcoming year.