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Town Taxes up 5.8%, But with Reval Your Bill Likely Will Vary

Taxes for nearly everyone are going up, but the Representative Town Meeting, which gave final approval Monday, decided the higher spending was right.

Over the objections of a minority, the Darien Representative Town Meeting approved a 5.8 percent tax increase and a 5.9 percent spending increase for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The town mill rate, which applies to taxes due this coming July 1 and Jan. 1, 2015, goes up from 13.17 to 15.01 mills.

(You can calculate your taxes: Divide by 1,000 the assessed value on your home — 70 percent of what the Tax Assessor's Office estimated as "fair value" of your home — and multiply by the 15.01 mill rate.)

Since the town's revaluation occurred in 2012 and 2013, after the recession but with a sputtering recovery, is 7.2 percent below the previous revaluation, the smaller tax base contributed to the increase in the tax rate.

But with revaluation having a different tax impact on different properties, your own tax increase may be smaller or larger than the overall 5.9 percent — and your taxes might even have fallen if your latest assessment fell enough, said James Palen, chairman of the Finance & Budget Committee.

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SEE ALSO:

1st Selectman Stevenson Describes 2014-15 Spending

Why Taxes Are Going up: Committee Budget Report

Ed Board Chair Hagerty-Ross on 2014-2015 Education Budget

RTM Education Committee Report on Darien Education Budget

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Spending for next fiscal year's town budget, starting July 1, increases by 5.9 percent, with the same percentage increase in the education budget as the selectmen's budget (as modified by the Board of Finance). The total Darien budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $133.1 million.

The education budget is up in large part because of a 3.5 percent increase in  teachers' wages, the biggest increase in a multi-year contract approved by the town in 2012.

Board of Finance Chair Liz Mao told the RTM that her board was presented with a proposed 7.5 percent increase and was able to whittle it down to 5.9 percent.

"It's still a very high number," she said, but added that the increase was justified.

Personnel costs are an enormous portion of the overall budget, and with all the changes in health insurance over the past year, costs have increased 24.99 percent, she said (compared to a 3 percent increase the year before).

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ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT CHANNEL 79 REBROADCAST

[TV79, Darien's government television channel, sent out this message early Tuesday afternoon]

Dear TV79 Viewers:

We experienced some technical difficulties with our live coverage of last night's Representative Town Meeting debate and vote on the Town and Board of Education's proposed 2014-2015 budgets.  Our gear is getting old and we apologize that it's proving unreliable.

Because we could not air the first 45 minute of last night's meeting live, we are airing the entire RTM meeting (all 2 hours and 50 minutes) continually today and tomorrow.  We will also re-air the meeting starting this Friday, May 16.

We will carry tonight's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting LIVE at 8 p.m. as it hears about the proposed cell tower at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club.

Again, we apologize for last night's problems.  We are working to keep our equipment operating as best as possible.

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Dennis Maroney, chair of he RTM Education Committee told the RTM that his panel approved of the increased spending for the Education Department:

"This was an especially difficult year, and in spite of the difficulties with the Special Education situation and the full step negotiated teacher increase, the increase is [otherwise] in line with years past," he said. (Maroney's full statement can be found here.)

Proposals to cut the budget by 1 percent and to cut the Darien Library budget by $200,000 were rejected by the RTM.

The vote to approve the education budget was 62-12 in favor, with one abstention. The vote on the rest of the town budget was 54 in favor, 21 opposed, with one abstention.

The RTM also approved, unanimously (in a 75-0 vote), a proposal to allow the Board of Finance to refinance $60 million in town bonds in order to take advantage of lower interest rates and similar financial benefits.

Editor's note: Darien Patch will publish additional budget coverage on Tuesday.








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