The Board of Selectmen's budget would go up 6.4 percent, to $41.3 million, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the selectmen decided in a unanimous vote Monday night.
The budget now goes on to the Board of Finance and then the Representative Town Meeting. Both of those panels will consider the selectmen's town-side budget as well as the Board of Education's budget, which will be about twice as large.
Selectmen wrapped up work on the budget by making one $50,000 change (cutting a proposed radio system for the town fire departments), but otherwise leaving unchanged the budget decisions they made last week in three budget meetings.
Karl Kilduff had proposed a $42,300,473 budget, up 9.1 percent from the one adopted by the town last year. Selectman cut about $1 million from the budget proposal.
"Our spending is responsible and represents an investment in our community that benefits everyone by supporting services and amenities that support our property values," Jayme Stevenson said in she read during the board meeting.
Selectman David F. Bayne also had , part of which he read during the meeting:
"[W]hile I will vote to approve this budget, I do so reluctantly. I know that there are many in Darien who are continuing to struggle with the cost of living here. Many of them are the most vulnerable among us for whom property tax increases of 4% to 5% a year over multiple years is a real hardship. It is these people that I worry about most when we approve a budget increase of this magnitude."
Bayne told Stevenson the Board of Selectmen should hold hearings early in the next fiscal year for a public discussion involving what services town residents expect from their local government. Stevenson said she was thinking along the same lines and wanted to have a "mid-year budget review" with town department heads and get "public input" on that.
Radio system for fire departments cut
With a new Police Department radio tower just erected, fire trucks in the town's three volunteeer fire departments probably won't need a new $50,000 radio system that would cover parts of Hoyt Street, selectmen agreed. The area is the last dead spot in town where radio service is still lacking.
With the new tower in place, more testing of the current radios is now being done, Selectman David Campbell told the board. If the testing shows that radio signals still can't get through, the Board of Finance could put the money back in the budget, selectmen agreed.
The Depot funded $12,000 more
Officials from youth center appeared before the board and argued their case that the organization should receive $12,000 more in funding in the next fiscal year.
Last week, on granting the group more money—something Depot officials had not requested—until they heard what The Depot expected to do with the money.
Instead of presenting a detailed proposal, however, Depot officials stated that they needed the additional funding to continue their programs, that their budget was tight already, and that they have been expanding into helping troubled kids, largely with referrals to other agencies.
Selectman David Campbell said that before stepping down as first selectmen last November, he was privy to a number of situations where The Depot had been instrumental in helping troubled youths, and he pointed out that Darien Police often get help from the Depot in referring youths to various social and behavioral programs.
Stevenson, a former member of The Depot's board of directors, said the state mandates that each municipality designate a youth services provider, and The Depot is the one the town uses. Youth services providers refer troubled youths to other agencies, among other duties.
Bayne and Selectman John A. Lundeen each said that while they greatly respected the work The Depot has done, they would prefer to have detailed proposals outlining what the organization intended to do with taxpayers' money before agreeing to grant the funds.
Stevenson and other selectmen agreed that in the future The Depot should make a more detailed request. In this situation, however, Stevenson and Kilduff proposed spending $12,000 of a larger amount of money made available because the town decided to stop funding Youth Options, a counseling group based in Stamford.
Over Bayne's and Lundeen's objections, The Depot received the extra money, increasing the town's grant to $51,000.
Funding for Hoyt Street sidewalk plans deferred
Lundeen suggested setting aside money in the budget for the town to draw up plans for a Hoyt Street sidewalk, but other selectmen said they could always ask the Board of Finance for funds later.
Lundeen, who accompanied Stevenson and Kilduff to a meeting with state Department of Transportation officials about the possibility of building a sidewalk along Hoyt Street, said state officials appeared receptive to the idea.
Stevenson said the sidewalks would be a challenge to fund, and while she still wants the town to pursue the idea of sidewalks on Hoyt Street, more research is needed before deciding to draw up plans.