AP NEWS

Several Danbury area budgets to be decided Tuesday

May 6, 2019

Redding’s budget could be the trickiest to pass of four area budgets set to be voted on Tuesday.

With a history of voting down budgets with larger increases, Redding residents are facing a budget that calls for more money in the town, schools and Region 9 budgets for an overall increase of $1.73 million. The ballot also calls for all three to be grouped together in one lump sum, though voters also vote on Region 9’s budget independently.

In addition to Redding, the Region 12 and Bethel town budget will all go to the ballot box Tuesday, making this the second attempt for the Bethel budget, which failed April 11. Danbury City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday night.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Brookfield will also hold a town meeting in Brookfield High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss its $70 million budget.

Here’s a look at the different budgets being decided Tuesday:

Danbury

Danbury City Council will consider a $261.5 million budget at its regular meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m.

Mayor Mark Boughton’s proposed budget is $4.5 million, or 1.8 percent more than this year. It keeps the tax rate level, while increasing funding for schools and roads.

The biggest budget drivers are salaries, pensions and benefits for current and retired employees.

The Board of Education accounts for $134.4 million of the budget, or $5.2 million more than this year. The district is getting $2.2 million more in local funding and $2.4 million more in Alliance grant funding. The former Matrix site is also expected to generate $550,000 in student impact fees.

The budget includes $4.5 million for road work, including paving, fixing potholes, installing guardrails and improving drainage. There are also several public safety items, including replacing Tasers, upgrading communications equipment, continuing the vehicle rollover program and buying a rescue vessel for Candlewood Lake that the fire and police departments will be able to use.

Improving the downtown by enhancing the streetscape and adding more police patrols in the summer are also in the budget.

Redding

Voters will consider a nearly $51 million budget, which is about $1.73 million more than the current budget and includes increases in the selectmen, school board and Region 9 budgets.

The big budget drivers are pensions, social security and other contractual increases, as well as salaries and special education on the schools’ side.

It includes nearly $15 million for the selectmen, which is about $292,000, or 1.98 percent, more than the current budget.

The Redding Board of Education budget is nearly $22.1 million, which is about $938,000, or 4.44 percent, more than the current budget. This is less than the 4.69 percent increase initially approved by the school board, which oversees the elementary and middle schools. This proposed budget reinstates Spanish at the elementary school.

Redding’s share of the Region 9 budget is $13.9 million, which is about $505,000 more than the current year, though the overall budget is the same. This is because the cost is split proportionally between Easton and Redding based on the number of students each town has at Joel Barlow High School.

Voters will also be asked to approve up to $2.5 million for the police and fire radio upgrades and $400,000 for the Station Road bridge project. The town plans to borrow for both though there could be some state money as well.

Region 12

Region 12’s $22.8 million budget, is heading to referendum in the district’s three towns, splitting it proportionally based on enrollment.

This means Washington will pay $10.6 million for the budget, Roxbury will cover $7.75 million and Bridgewater is responsible for $4.45 million.

The overall budget is 4.57 percent higher than the current budget, largely due to the new agriscience academy program that begins this fall. The bulk of the increase will be offset though by the revenue the program generates.

Contractual personnel increases are another budget driver. Salaries account for $12.8 million, or 56.2 percent of the overall budget and 1.18 percent more than last year. Benefits account for $3.67 million, or 16.1 percent of the overall budget, which is 6.19 percent more than the current year.

Another budget driver is the upgrades to the district’s buildings, totaling about $434,000, up from the $21,900 included in the current budget.

Bethel

The town budget returns to voters, this time with $385,000 less, bringing the new municipal operating budget $31.6 million.

The original proposal was narrowly rejected last month. The $46.4 million school and $1 million capital budgets were approved earlier this month and won’t be voted on again.

With this new budget, the tax rate would increase by 1.65 percent and municipal spending would rise by 6.9 percent. The previous plan would have raised the tax rate by 2.24 percent. Combined town and school budgets would be just under $78 million.

The Police Department, Senior Center, school maintenance and Parks and Recreation Department saw the bulk of the cuts.

Debt from the police station and elementary school renovation projects is still the biggest budget driver, with the debt service increasing 25 percent from the previous year. The board

But the Finance Board voted to use the $285,000 the town expects to receive from the state to pay off some of these loans, bringing debt service costs to $4.9 million, down from the $5.2 million in the previous proposal.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345