Trumbull’s school system, by far the largest budget expense for the town every year, represented a significant challenge in compiling the annual town budget, according to First Selectman Vicki Tesoro.

Tesoro delivered her $180.14 million 2020-21 budget proposal to the Board of Finance March 2. That total includes $109.3 million for the school system. Though the schools would receive a $3.18 million funding increase, the total falls short of the $4.84 million hike the Board of Education was seeking.

“The newly elected Board of Education is faced with a potential deficit left by the previous board and school administration,” Tesoro said in her budget transmission letter. “They are struggling to make up that deficit and move the system forward.”

Tesoro said funding the school system at the level the board had requested would have resulted in a municipal tax increase of 3.63 percent.

“It is a hard reality, but our residents simply cannot afford a tax increase of that magnitude,” she said.

The town has already begun the process of auditing the school system.

“We need to understand precisely what happened and why these budgetary issues did not become evident until now,” Tesoro said. “We will gather the facts and determine if mistakes were made or if Board of Education practices need correcting.”

Tesoro’s recommended budget, if adopted as it is, would result in a tax increase of 2.59 percent, or $189 for a home with a market value of $300,000.

Aside from the school system, Tesoro recommended an increase of about $1.6 million to town departments, from $44.4 million to $46 million, about 3.6 percent.

On the revenue side, most of the town’s 2020-21 budget, $168 million, will be funded by property taxes. Tesoro also anticipates state and federal grant funds of about $4 million, another $5.9 million from permits and fees, and about $1.2 million from various investment and other income.

Looking to the future, Tesoro touted economic progress around town.

“A simple drive through our community or the regular reading of our local newspapers show the unmistakable signs of progress,” she said. “New businesses, new restaurants, and new entertainment venues are underway or being contemplated. Taxpayers will begin reaping more of the benefits of this development in fiscal year 2021-22 and beyond.”

One potential development — the former United Healthcare building at 48 Monroe Tpke. — is currently tied up in litigation with no timetable for construction to begin.

“Once completed, this project’s independent living, assisted living, and memory care units will provide much-needed and essential services to seniors in our town for years to come, and millions of dollars of direct tax and ancillary revenue to our community,” Tesoro said. “Unfortunately, this development is currently being held up in litigation. It is my hope that this litigation, which hurts every taxpayer, residential and business alike, will soon be resolved.”

In her conclusion, Tesoro expressed confidence in the town’s fiscal situation.

“I am proud that the independent rating agencies have praised our sound fiscal practices and conservative fiscal management,” she said. “I am proud that so many developers and businesses are prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Trumbull and that the new businesses we have brought in and our existing businesses are thriving. Most of all, I am proud to be a member of a community that supports one another not only though their tax dollars but through our many civic groups, our clubs, and by individual volunteer efforts every day.”