New Fairfield finance board recommends budget increase of nearly 3 percent

Photo of Kendra Baker
After several postponements, New Fairfield's Board of Finance has finally recommended a 2021-22 budget, and it comes with a less than 3 percent tax increase.

After several postponements, New Fairfield’s Board of Finance has finally recommended a 2021-22 budget, and it comes with a less than 3 percent tax increase.

Kendra Baker / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW FAIRFIELD — After several delays, the Board of Finance voted Wednesday to recommend a $58.2 million budget for 2021-22 that comes with tax increase of nearly 3 percent.

Before taxpayers can vote on the budget, a town meeting will need to take place to set a referendum date.

The Board of Selectmen plans to discuss and possibly vote on setting a date for the annual town meeting during its virtual meeting tonight, beginning at 7:30.

Since the federal American Rescue Plan funds could not be used to help reduce New Fairfield’s 2021-22 budget, the finance board looked for budget areas where changes could be made to lessen the town’s tax increase.

The board went into Wednesday’s meeting looking at a 3.66 percent tax increase but came to a consensus on a 2.98 percent increase.

“When we started this whole process back in March, we started out at a 5.98 percent tax increase,” Board of Finance Chairman Wes Marsh said.

A 2.98 percent increase would raise the town’s mill rate to about 31.49. This means the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 would pay about $12,596 in taxes for the 2021-22 year.

Officials said the 2021-22 recommended budget not only keeps New Fairfield’s tax increase below 3 percent, but does so at a time when two school building projects are being funded — something no other town in the area is doing, Marsh said.

“The debt service for the two new schools accounts for a 2.81 percent tax increase, which leaves 0.17 percent tax increase to cover the other four portions of our budget — payroll, non-payroll, medical, and capital and non-recurring increases,” he said. “That kept the town and education budget increases to the bare minimum.”

To bring the mill rate increase down, the finance board unanimously voted to reduce the town budget by $223,799, a $1,098,770 reduction to the school budget and a $344,137 overall addition to revenues.

Reductions on the municipal budget included $20,000 from workers compensation, $40,000 from state police, $10,000 from salary adjustments, $80,000 from road repair, $62,985 from fire department capital and nonrecurring, and $10,814 from medical.

The school budget reductions included $644,000 from operating expenses, $386,384 from debt service and $68,386 from medical.

On the revenue side, the board voted to add $15,649 to pilot revenue, $66,000 to building permits, $100,000 to real estate conveyance, $151,000 to special education excess cost and $200,000 to interest income, and deduct $188,512 from education cost-sharing.

With the changes, the Board of Finance is recommending a $45.3 million school operating budget and nearly $12.9 million municipal operating budget for 2021-22.