Representative Town Meeting will vote on town budget for 2018-19 on May 14

Darien’s Representative Town Meeting will vote on the town budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year on Monday, May 14. The Board of Finance approved a budget of $145,171,660 in April, representing a marginal decrease from the current year’s budget. As a result, the new budget would lower the town’s mill rate for property taxes from 16.16 to 16.08 next year.

The town’s spending is separated into three major categories: the selectmen’s operating budget, the education operating budget and capital/non-recurring expenditures. Town services, ranging from daily programs run by the Parks & Recreation Department to emergency response from the police and fire departments, are funded by the selectmen’s operating budget and make up about a little less than a third of the budget.

During this year’s budget cycle First Selectman Jayme Stevenson asked department heads to aim for a stable budget with a zero percent increase in spending. With that goal in mind the Board of Selectmen delivered its budget with a slight decrease in overall spending at $47,049,394.

Public school costs weigh heaviest on the town budget as the Board of Education works to deliver the highest level of available education possible to Darien’s students. The Board of Finance approved the Board of Education’s budget as recommended at $98,122,266, an increase of 2.34% from the prior year.

Though education spending is set to increase, the overall proposed budget for 2018-19 for remains lower due to a reduction in capital expenses. During their review of the budget the Board of Finance members decided to use bonds to pay for several school projects, including the installation of a turf field at Darien High School and a skylight at Holmes School. The board chose to bond those capital projects based on the town’s decrease in debt payments over the coming years.

On Monday the Representative Town Meeting will have separate votes to approve the selectmen’s budget, the education budget, capital expenses and the new mill rate. The RTM Finance & Budget Committee has been involved in the budget process with other town officials since the start of the year and will deliver its own report prior to the vote. The RTM will also be able to make itemized changes to the selectmen’s budget and capital expenses, but can only approve or deny the education budget as proposed.

Though the proposed budget shows a slight decrease in the town’s mill rate, tax bills could still be affected in the long term by the ongoing revaluation process in Darien. When the process is complete some Darien homes will have new assessed values, which would affect how the much homeowners pay in property taxes. Combined with a lack of financial support from the state, town officials have expressed a desire to stabilize the tax impact on local residents.

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