Mayor Caroline Simmons laid out three main priorities in her proposed $638.4 million budget:
- Advancing economic prosperity and working to make Stamford more affordable and equitable
- Investing in infrastructure and quality of life initiatives
- Making government work better for residents
“Budgets are a reflection of our values as a city,” Simmons told a joint meeting of the Board of Finance and Fiscal Committee of the Board of Representatives on March 9.
Of the $638 million, about $591 million is proposed to be generated by local taxes, with the remainder coming from other sources, such as state funding and revenue generated by city departments.
The city side of the budget includes $182 million in operating expenses, $87 million for employee benefits, and $52.7 million in debt service, for a 1.4% increase over last year’s budget. The proposed budget for the Board of Education is $308 million, along with an additional $4.5 million that the city spends to support educational programming, which overall is a 4.9% increase over last year.
In total, the proposed mill rate, or tax levy, is projected to increase just under 1%.
“We didn’t want to overly burden the Stamford residents this year,” Simmons said. “We’re all feeling the rising cost of living. This budget keeps in mind what people are feeling in Stamford.”
Just under half of the city budget goes toward education. City salaries and employee benefits make up about 30% of the budget.
The city’s operating budget covers the day-to-day expenses of running the city, while the capital budget covers investments in areas such as infrastructure, buildings, equipment, vehicles—usually one-time purchases or investments.
The proposed capital budget is $58 million, of which about $34.4 million would come from local bonds, and the others from special funds or grants, such as the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We have significant capital needs in our city,” Simmons said.
The Board of Education and Public Works Department, about 38% of the capital budget, would see the largest capital investments, with plans for funding school building and infrastructure needs across the city.
Simmons said that they are keeping an eye on the Board of Education’s projected 10-year facilities plan and how that could impact the capital budget. She said that they would be “working with their state representatives to max out school construction” reimbursements from the state.
Some of the capital projects include:
- The animal shelter, which Simmons said was “long overdue”
- Bridge replacement
- School district-wide indoor air quality work
- Road paving and sidewalks
- Digital infrastructure and cloud migration
Simmons also emphasized that her administration would be looking for other funding opportunities through state and federal programs to take the burden off of city taxpayers and find ways to invest in areas of need.
Simmons said that the budget is “a reflection of our values as an administration to build a more inclusive, equitable, innovative and vibrant city where everyone can thrive.”
This week, reviews of individual department budgets will continue. The Fiscal Committee will hold a budget hearing on Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. when it will review the budget of operations-related expenses, including vehicle maintenance, solid waste, stormwater management, road maintenance, leaf pickup, and snow removal. On Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m., there will be a joint meeting of the Board of Finance and Fiscal Committee to review the budgets of the police department, animal shelter, and fire department.