Weston selectmen approve $343K town budget hike
WESTON — A town budget increase and a projected stagnant grand list could mean another tax rate hike for Weston residents next year.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a $13,795,997 town budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year at its meeting Tuesday — a 2.55 percent, or $343,252, increase over last year.
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First Selectman Chris Spaulding’s presentation showed the majority of the $343,252 year-over-year increase was attributable to wage increases, medical insurance increases and greater retirement contributions.
“In terms of what drove our budgeting it’s the exact same as last year pretty much,” Spaulding said. “It’s to maintain town services in as least costly manner as possible.”
While 95 percent of the budget’s increase was already built into the proposal, the town faced another hurdle due to a projected stagnant grand list.
“Basically it really puts a huge constraint on our ability to invest in growth services,” Spaulding said, adding the town has to be creative without the growth.
Weston’s mill rate is also predicted to jump from 32.37 to 33.16. Last year, the mill rate increased from 29.39 to 32.37, placing Weston’s increase among the top three statewide, according to a report from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
“We’re working in a much tighter budget,” Spaulding said. “The good news is it’s not much tighter than it was before.”
A major contributor to the increase outside of contracted costs was an uptick in the Transfer Station’s operating budget, which is expected to grow from $5,572 to $53,574. With the town’s contract with City Carting soon expiring, recycling removal costs are expected to massively rise.
“We’re looking for what could be options for Weston in the future,” Town Administrator Johnathan Luiz said. “In the meantime, we think the most prudent thing to do is to propose this increase, which is tough but also reflects the market place.”
The cost per garbage bag that residents bring to the station will increase from $2.50 to $5.50, and neighborhood haulers will be charged to drop their recycling off at the Transfer Station.
“In terms of the proposed price increase, this is fair game for the discussion in the public hearing of the budget,” Luiz said. “In terms of the larger overall discussion about the future of the transfer station ... towns are doing it differently.”
He added the BOS and Board of Finance will need an ongoing discussion to address the station’s future.
Proposed capital expenditures for the BOS and Board of Education total $1,784, 991, with $117,688 of this amount being offset by completed projects with outstanding balances.
Some of the capital items of note include $116,000 in repairs for Michael’s Way Bridge and $150,000 for the Fire Department breathing apparatus replacements.
To find cost savings, the selectmen discussed the regionalization of services. Spaulding noted the town was looking to bring Easton into the Westport-Weston Health District, which could contribute to $30,000 in savings.
“There are also some other places we’re looking,” he said, noting an effort to find savings in the BOE budget.
The approved town budget will next go to the finance board for review on March 2.