Weston Transfer Station hike the focus of town budget review

WESTON — A projected sharp uptick in the Weston transfer station’s operating budget was a point of contention during a review of the first selectman’s proposed budget.

“In the past, this was a profitable endeavor,” First Selectman Chris Spaulding said at the Board of Finance meeting on Monday. “The question is, is this an amenity, is this a service, or is this something that has changed over time and do we have a smaller and smaller portion of people using it?”

The transfer station’s operating budget is projected to increase from $5,572 to $53,574 due to the town’s contract with City Carting expiring. Spaulding’s proposed $13 million town budget represented a 2.55 percent increase over last year, largely due to contracted costs and the transfer station, which handles waste and recycling processing.

To offset the station’s growing budget, the Board of Selectmen has proposed charging neighborhood haulers and upping the cost per garbage bag that residents bring to the station from $2.50 to $5.50.

Some finance board members voiced opposition to the cost increase for residents, but Spaulding noted towns across Connecticut were feeling similar effects.

Another budget concern for the town comes in the form of transportation costs. Weston anticipates spending $900,000 for road improvements in the first year, but has only budgeted $550,000, with Spaulding suggesting using the town’s reserve fund to make up the difference.

“I’m generally not comfortable with using offsets from reserve funds,” he said. “The reason this one conceptually works and I’m OK with it is that we know this is for a specific purpose and it’s to catch up on an underinvestment, and it’s not going to be a recurring item.”

Finance board member Rone Baldwin said he felt strongly that the town has several months to understand how the road projects could affect the tax rate, and plan for it.

“We should not have to deal with a special appropriation,” Baldwin said. “We should be able to deal with this and reflect it through the budget process. Not deal with a special appropriation in June.”

With the mill rate expected to rise again next year, finance board members also highlighted the need to find cost savings to alleviate the burden on taxpayers.

The selectmen recommended that the BOF limit the schools budget to a 2.5 percent increase, below the proposed 2.8 percent increase, to lessen the tax rate’s increase.

“I think we have to do better,” member Allan Grauberd said. “We can’t just keep pushing these tax increases down to our town.”

The BOF will review the schools budget on Wednesday.