DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s town spending is expected to increase by less than 1 percent next year, with a proposed operating budget of $31.2 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The total operating budget of $31,203,915 is a 0.78 percent increase over last year’s budget. The town’s debt service will increase 2.47 percent to $11,767,966.
“This year required a little bit more thought going into the budget than we have in the past and there has been a lot to contemplate going forward,” said Town Administrator Karl Kilduff, who proposed the 2015-16 budget. “The budget this year is really a response to what happened last year.”
At the Representative Town Meeting’s vote to approve the budget last May, several members expressed concerns about the large increase in town spending seen that year. Some tried to institute a last-minute cut of $200,000 as a way of sending the town a message to keep its spending in line. Kilduff said that town officials heard the RTM’s concerns and sought to keep spending increases down this year.
“We also initiated a mock budget, which was an attempt to model a 1 percent increase in the town’s expenditures and give the board of selectmen an indication of what might have to be done to our service levels and how we could deliver a budget that came in at under 1 percent,” he said.
The town was able to find some savings in places such as its utility costs by taking advantage of collapsed petroleum prices. The town also reduced protective services spending and kept public works spending low.
Some of the big cost drivers of the budget include contingencies needed for contract negotiation with employee unions, whose contracts are up this year. The town is also shifting part-time positions to full-time positions to handle maintenance of town facilities.
Some of the capital expenses in this year’s budget include upgrading the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, digitizing town records to free up space in Town Hall and make the records more readily available to the public, adding a new boat and vehicles for the police department and making designs for the property at 4 Shore Lane to become part of Weed Beach.
The budget was approved unanimously last week by the Darien Board of Selectmen, who found about $600,000 in additional savings from the budget Kilduff proposed. It will now move on to the Board of Finance for further scrutiny and possible cuts before the RTM votes on both the town and school budgets at a meeting in May.
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