DARIEN, Conn. — New sidewalk projects and improvements to the Post Road were among the spending items cut before the Darien Board of Selectmen approved a $42.66 million budget Tuesday night.
The 2013-14 budget is a 5.98 percent increase over this year. The Board of Selectmen cut about $465,000 from the original proposed budget for next year.
Many things in the budget, such as contractual obligations, are beyond the town's control, Selectman John Lundeen said. But staffing increases at the new Mather Community Center and maintenance for the new police station "increases the government's footprint."
"These really are generally increases in staff that are ongoing and are not things that are likely to go away," he said.
"I'm very disappointed in this budget and really kind of depressed," Selectman David Bayne said. It's frustrating that many of the increases come from contractual obligations, insurance premiums and energy costs, Bayne said. The town needs to have a philosophical discussion about whether the taxpayers want to decrease town services or put up with regular tax increases every year, he said.
Selectman Jerry Nielsen said he was "very proud" of this budget. Darien has deferred spending in the past, but adding maintenance staff is a necessary expenditure, Nielsen said. "It's a tough thing to do, but we've got to maintain our facilities."
Selectman David Campbell said he would have liked less spending but said some of the funding is important, such as a flooding mitigation project on Intervale Road. "We have to constantly be looking at what the priorities of the town are. It's always a moving target, and we have to work together to do the best we can."
Over the past couple of administrations, town departments have had to do scale back personnel to cut costs, but it became harder to deliver services that taxpayers expect, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. The town needs to reinstate certain positions as a response to public demand, she said.
The budget will now mov e to the Board of Finance for further deliberations and possible cuts before going to the Representative Town Meeting for final approval.