The Representative Town Meeting approved a $115.1 million operating budget for fiscal year 2011-12 Monday night, bringing an end to a four-month process and setting Darien's mill rate 3.92 percent higher than the year before.
The package includes $38,798,485 for the municipal side and $76,313,805 for the Board of Education — 1.6 percent and 6.7 percent higher than in 2010-11, respectively. Rising special education and personnel costs were primarily responsible for the increases.
The RTM OK'd a corresponding mill rate of 12.20, up from the previous year's figure of 11.74. The mill rate represents the tax dollars owed on property per $1,000 of assessed value.
The final vote was 55-20, with 2 abstentions.
Board of Finance chair Liz Mao, who presented the budget numbers approved by her board in April, told the RTM that the proposal had gone through "many adjustments and much discussion" as officials worked to balance spending and revenue concerns.
Mao noted that the board had raised its tax collection rate assumption from 98.5 to 98.9 percent this year, given that the actual rate hasn't dipped below 99.2 percent in at least a decade. That — along with a slightly larger grand list — helped to mitigate the mill increase, she said.
The RTM also approved $1,429,575 in capital and non-recurring expenses Monday and authorized borrowing of up to $5 million in case of an interruption in tax collection.
Earlier in the evening, the RTM signed off on a $210,000 appropriation for FY 2010-11.
In April, the Board of Finance approved $475,000 in additional funding for a projected Board of Education shortfall, allocating $265,000 from its special education reserve fund and requesting that the RTM draw the remainder from the town's general fund.
The shortfall came about through higher-than-expected tuition costs for students whose needs can't be met in district, as well as related expenses for transportation and specialists.
Several RTM members pressed Superintendent Stephen Falcone and Board of Education chair Kim Westcott for details on the nature of the overruns and how the district intends to address rising special education costs in the future.
The RTM also approved a contemplated gift of equipment for fitness trails at from the .
Patch will have more on Monday's annual budget meeting shortly.