Weston finance board reviews reductions in town, schools budget

The Weston Board of Finance reviews the First Selectman's budget on Mar. 2.

The Weston Board of Finance reviews the First Selectman's budget on Mar. 2.

DJ Simmons /Hearst Connecticut Media /

WESTON — The Board of Finance reviewed reductions in both the town and schools budget as they assessed the respective impacts on the mill rate.

Despite the reductions a projected mill rate increase of 1.39 percent left some BOF members concerned of the burden on taxpayers.

“I think it’s incumbent on our three boards to figure out how we can get this down to zero,” BOF member Jeffrey Farr said at the meeting on Tuesday.

The Board of Education outlined $328,220 in reductions for the schools budget, which brought it down from a 2.89 percent increase over last year’s budget to a 2.28 percent increase.

“Through this budget process the selectmen have been particularly, as the board has been, very anxious that we do not affect the school level,” Superintendent William Mckersie said. “This next round of reductions do not affect the school level.”

In January, the BOE made a $175,000 reduction to at the time a yet-to-be-named administration position. Schools Finance Director Phillip Cross said the resignation of Human Resources Director Lewis Brey will now cover this reduction and more.

“There will be a $21,000 reduction in addition to the $175,000 that was previously reduced,” he said.

Another major reduction came thanks to the district saving $192,537 from health premiums after initial projections of a 10 percent increase were brought down to 6.5 percent.

Mckersie noted further cuts that may impact the technology department with the possibility of distance learning extending into the next school year.

“One thing I would urge us not to touch right now is anything more in the IT area,” he said. “That’s how we do education in Weston right now, and as the First Selectman has said, we may be back to it.”

Similarly, First Selectman Chris Spaulding outlined various reductions in the town operating budget.

With Bisceglie Pond closing for the summer due to the coronavirus, Spaulding said the town was expected to see $20,000 in savings. Another $20,000 reduction was also expected in the town’s pension and OPEB contributions.

Spaulding said in anticipation of Easton joining the Westport-Weston Health District the town is projected to see another $35,000 in savings.

A potential arrangement with the Housatonic Resources Recover Authority would also save $25,000 in costs for solid waste disposal. This would see the cost per gargbage bag residents bring to the transfer station go from $2.50 to $4, down from $5.50 originally projected.

“We would recommend we take that $25,000 and keep the cuts to what we proposed before, but use that to reduce the sticker price,” Spaulding said.

Some BOF members expressed concern of $350,000 budgeted to improve the roads due to unclear financial impacts of the coronavirus on the town.

“I would love to see us move the needle on the quality of roads here, but there’s too many unknowns right now,” Farr said.

To achieve a flat mill rate increase, BOF members floated the idea of a $1 million in reductions between the town and schools budget. But BOE Chairman Tony Pesco cautioned against it.

“We’ve done the scenarios down to flat,” he said. “We know where the next cuts is going to be, which is going to be teachers.”

The finance board will hold a public hearing on the budgest at its next meeting on April 25.