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Stevenson: Budget of Need-to-, Not Nice-to-Haves

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson read this statement at the Board of Selectmen's meeting, explaining why the board adopted its increased budget.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson prepared this statement before the Board of Education meeting Monday and read it during the meeting. It does not reflect the $50,000 the board cut from the capital budget for a fire-department radio system (bringing the overall increase to 6.44 percent). Other than style changes, all the words are hers. Selectman David F. Bayne also prepared , and he read part of his at the meeting.

Stevenson's statement:

The Board of Selectmen’s proposed budget, if by this body, will increase a total of $2,549,983 to $41,348,468—a 6.57% overall increase from our 2011-12 Budget of $38,798,485.  I would like to take a few minutes to dissect the budget so that the public has a better understanding of the philosophy we employed in our deliberations and to highlight the primary drivers of the increase.

First, I would like to thank all our department heads, [] Karl Kilduff and [] Kate Buch for their diligence in the budget preparation process. 

The themes of this year’s budget were twofold and decided upon by this board:

1)  To preserve current service delivery levels according to public will.  I will reiterate that, in spite of a difficult economy, all public comment we received was to increase services, not reduce or eliminate them.  However, we did adopt the philosophy of supporting only need-to-haves, not nice-to-haves. 

2)  We acknowledge that this year we commit ourselves to responsible investment in our infrastructure.  The town took advantage of historically low borrowing and construction costs and supported moving ahead several important and long-deferred capital projects forward—the , and the Mather Community Center project [the Shuffle].  Our predictions are bearing out with construction costs for both the Darien Police Department [headquarters] and Weed Beach coming lower than anticipated.  While this budget makes certain conservative debt service assumptions.  The Board of Finance has an opportunity to further reduce debt service costs and we look forward to hearing their decisions. 

I’m going to break down the budget into three distinct categories.

Operating Budget

The operating budget or in other words, the cost of doing town business is proposed to increase 2.87% or $780,199.  As a reminder, the cost of doing business includes the following cost centers:  General Government, Community and Environment, Protective and Emergency Services, Public Works, Human Services, Parks and Recreation and the $3.26 million grant to the .

Key drivers of the 2.87%  are additions to the budget for the upcoming senatorial primary, increasing legal services, primarily for land use issues, overtime in police patrol to accommodate the trial year for the school resource officer [a police officer stationed at Darien High School], grant increases for our three volunteer fire departments as a result of a difficult fundraising environment and contractual obligations from our employee unions.  The possibility of more favorable heathcare and insurance contracts exists but we won’t have that information until early March. 

Capital budget

Our capital budget is increasing by $464,954 to $1,985,381 from the 2011-12 budget of $1,493,427.  This board made significant reductions in capital requests but supported prudent equipment and reserve investments.  Key drivers of this increase include $500,000 for the 2013 property revaluation—this amount alone exceeds our overall capital increase.  Additional drivers are equipment and vehicle replacements and reserves for the Police Department and fire departments, safety upgrades to the Old Kings Highway South bridge and a new Town Hall gym divider. 

Debt service

Our debt service budget, at this time without further direction from the Board of Finance, is increasing by $1,304,830 to $11,400,186 from the 2011-12 budget of $10,095,356.  This budget deserves further analysis because it carries the debt service for not only general government capital projects but Board of Education projects and sewer projects. 

It is more meaningful to look at this budget in total debt dollars versus dollar and percent increases.  Total outstanding debt is budgeted to be $85,005,273. 

Sewer debt represents 5.72% or $5,806,273 of our outstanding debt.  It is important to remember that debt service on this account is self-funding from sewer use charges.

debt represents 81% to total debt or $61,333,000. 

Municipal Debt represents 13.28% of our total outstanding debt or $11,866,000.  As mentioned earlier, this investment addresses long-deferred infrastructure needs.  I am pleased that our town has supported addressing these needs in this very favorable financing environment.  Kicking the can down the road would be far more costly in the long run. 

As your and on behalf of my board I would like to assure taxpayers that our spending is responsible and represents and investment in our community that benefits everyone by spending on services and amenities that support our property values.

Editor's note: Stevenson's statement was published by Patch at 9:52 a.m. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page.

JR February 16, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The Board of Selectmen have not done their job. I am very disappointed in Jayme Stevenson's statement which tries to convince Darien taxpayers that they only included 'need-to-have' items. Is a police officer at Darien High School one of those? This nonsense has to stop. CUT THE BUDGET - DON'T JUST LOWER THE INCREASES. WE ARE HURTING AND YOU PEOPLE ARE NOT LISTENING!
Bestiarius February 16, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I agree with JR. Drop the police officer at the High School. I see no evidence that is a "need-to-have". While we're on the topic of police. I'm amazed at how big the new police station is. Something seems wrong there.

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