Public to weigh in on Weston’s $76.3 million budget

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

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WESTON — Public hearings on the proposed $76.3 million budget are scheduled for March 30 and 31, with residents encouraged to reach out with their questions and comments.

“After deducting non-tax revenue sources and factoring the 0.76 percent increase in the grand list, the proposed mill rate increase is 2.5 percent,” First Selectman Christopher Spaulding wrote to the Board of Finance in a proposal that includes the Board of Education’s operating request of $55.6 million, which represents an increase of 2.68 percent over its current budget.

Along with the Board of Selectmen’s operating budget of nearly $14.1 million, the total budget also includes $5.5 million in debt service.

Both the selectmen and school board have approved the budgets. The Board of Finance will vote on it after the hearings.

At a recent meeting, the Board of Finance raised a few questions about the Board of Selectmen’s specific proposed operating budget, which represents a 2.8 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Of particular interest, was the capital request for $262,000 for camera-related expenses at the police department.

“We’ve been receiving emails from some citizens about the cost and everything associated with that,” said Steve Ezzes, finance board chairman.

Police Chief Edwin Henion explained that, following the passing of the state Police Accountability Bill last year, departments are now required to equip each active officer with a body camera, as well as having operational cameras in police vehicles.

“A lot of it has to do with police procedures, things that don’t cost money,” he said of the bill, noting the equipment must be in place by July of 2022.

While he said the department was applying for grant money for the purchases, which include installation and an informational storage system, there was only up to a 30 percent reimbursement, and that was contingent on state funding availability.

“We don’t have a lot of hope that we’re going to get everything covered,” Henion said.

Capt. Matthew Brodacki noted that the only two viable suppliers had been evaluated during a three-to four-month process, with the department settling on Axon — formerly TASER — which is the preferred system among Connecticut departments.

Ezzes asked if there were opportunities to curb costs by partnering with other towns to fulfill this requirement, but Brodacki said it was not practical given time constraints.

“We discussed (this) over many months on the police commission,” said Beth Gralnick, chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, “and we’re all on board with this.”

The Fire Department is not so lucky, however, with its request for a new rescue truck to replace its aging one, still being omitted from the capital budget.

“The rescue truck is up to be replaced and Engine 7 is coming up next year,” Chief John Pokorny said.

“The rescue truck’s really not performing properly,” he said, noting that as vehicles get pushed back on the timeline for replacement, the costs escalate.

Operations over at the Transfer Station were also brought into question, with several finance board members noting they’ve never been asked about not having vehicles registered in Weston when they’ve gotten to dump.

“I’ve never seen anyone do that,” Ezzes said.

Jonathan Luiz, town administrator, explained that permit stickers are automatically sent to residents after they register motor vehicles.

“I guarantee you they’re not checking those stickers,” said Allen Grauberd, a finance board member.

Both Luiz and Spaulding said they were supposed to be doing it and Luiz noted that he would contact the station and look into it.