If the town budget proposal presented by Town Administrator Karl Kilduff went into effect, the town-side of the next fiscal year's spending would increase by 9 percent to $42,290,583.
That's a hike of $3,492,098, and it includes both the operating budget, the entire debt service budget for bonds the town is paying off, and new capital expenditures on projects like the final installment of funding for a firefighters training facility, state-mandated property revaluation and continued funding for a "heavy rescue capability" for the .
The town school budget takes up the vast majority of town expenditures and the school debt service of $9.2 million is even included in the town-side budget that Kilduff presented.
The is currently digesting Superintendent Stephen Falcone's proposed $80.6 million looking for cuts in his 5.6 percent proposed increase. (After identifying cuts last week, the board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Auditorium.)
Kilduff sent a formal "transmittal" memorandum to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday (see the entire memo in seven images attached to this article). The document outlines the changes his proposed budget would make to town spending. He noted in the memo that town department heads had been reasonable in their budget requests, from which he cut $168,872, but that various important projects and costs were largely responsible for his proposed increase.
Kilduff's proposal can be broken down into operating, debt service and capital expenditures:2011-12 Budget 2012-13 Proposed Increase % Increase Operating Budget $27,209,702 $28,323,773 $1,114,071 4.1% Debt Service $10,095,356 $11,400,186 $1,304,830 12.9% Capital Expenditures $1,493,427 $2,566,624 $1,073,197 71.9% TOTALS $38,798,485 $42,290,583 $3,492,098 9%
Driving up the operating budget
Kilduff wrote that sources of higher spending in the operating budget include:
- Unavoidable cost increases like the added expenses of operating the expanded Police Department building (although the town has just begun reaping the benefits of heating the the building with natural gas, as is now done at Town Hall), and the soon-to-be-refurbished Weed Beach (although increased revenues are expected from that park).
- The town's three fire departments have raised less from the public as a result of the continued slow economy, and they can't continue deferring some expenses and therefore need more money from the town.
- While the price of electricity is lower as the town has put the contract out to bid, and the town has turned to natural gas for some buildings, prices are high for heating oil, diesel fuel and gasoline.
- Health insurance costs are rising, although the town will do some comparison shopping with other insurance companies to lessen the rate increases.
- The Social Services Department has an increased demand for its services.
- New contracts with the police union and Town Hall unions, together with the cost of a new contract with the public works union, now in arbitration, are expected to increase costs.
Increased debt service costs
Sewer debt is up by $73,270 (a 5.72 percent increase), the town's Education Department debt is actually down by $106,089, although at $9.2 million, it accounts for 81 percent of total town debt.
The big rise in debt costs is in the town side of the debt budget, which goes up from $176,259 in the current fiscal year to $1,513,908, a hike of $1,337,649.
Kilduff pointedly minimized the added $262,500 resulting from the controversial Shuffle facilities plan to move Darien Public Schools headquarters to the former library building on Leroy Avenue, then move the Senior Center into a new Mather Community Center, partly at the old schools headquarters in the Town Hall building.
Even though Kilduff stated that the Shuffle "accounts for $262,500 of the increase for debt service (or 2.3 percent of the total debt service expense)," that extra debt accounts for 20 percent of the $1.3 million increase in debt service overall.
But more of the debt is a result of the Weed Beach refurbishing project and the Police Department building expansion.
More spending on capital projects
"Critical investments in the town's infrastructure must still be made—even during an economic downturn," Kilduff wrote. "[O]pportunities to make operations more efficient should be assessed and funded as appropriate."
Kilduff mentioned these projects as some of the reasons the capital expenditures budget increased by 1,073,197, or 71.9 percent:
- State mandated property revaluation must be done in time for the Oct. 1, 2013 Grand List.
- A grant of $210,000 for the fire departments' training facility must now be joined by town government spending.
- Parking lots should be refurbished to help downtown merchants. (The Public Works Department budget includes money to refurbish the Leroy Avenue East and West parking lots and, on the other side of the Post Road, the North Center Street lot.)
The Board of Selectmen started reviewing Kilduff's proposed budget last week while meeting with various department heads to get further details. Those meetings continue this week, with the next one tonight at 7:30 in Room 206.
For a copy of the proposed budget and other budget documents and meeting schedules, see "".
Correction: Superintendent Stephen Falcone's proposed education budget is $80.5 million, as this article now states, not the 73.6 million originally stated here.