Weston selectmen approve $433K town budget hike
WESTON — What started off as a tight budget, just got a little rougher for the residents of Weston.
On Feb. 11, First Selectman Chris Spaulding presented his $13,480,745 town operating budget for fiscal year 2019-20 at the Board of Selectman meeting, a $433,447 — or 3.3 percent — increase over last year. The selectman approved the proposal, which now heads to the Board of Finance for review.
This comes amid the planned tax rate hike from 29.39 to 32.66 mills, due to the recent property revaluation that led to a drop in the Grand List.
The budget increase includes salary increases of $177,692, state mandated pension costs at $177,100, a new police school resource officer at $65,406, additional Mile-of-Safety overtime at $15,288, and a medical insurance rate increase at $42,425.
Spaulding’s presentation also showed the Board of Education’s proposed budget increasing nearly 4 percent from $51,444,906 to 53,466,710.
“Most residents shouldn’t see much of an increase, as it’s just a slight increase,” Spaulding said.
But with these changes, some services will be affected.
It was noted that last year the town lost over $140,000 from operating its transfer station, and will lose just as much this year. The loss is projected to increase substantially once the town’s contract with City Carting expires in 2020.
To offset the increase, the cost per bag that residents bring to the station will rise from $1.50 to $2.50. In response, some Board of Selectman members inquired about whether there could be a way for people with financial hardships to receive a reduced rate.
The administration additionally plans to reduce the station’s hours, but will keep the same Saturday hours, as this is when the most residents use it. However, the hours for the rest of the week will be cut sharply, with the station not open at all on some days.
Road conditions and the health of trees around town were also a major talking points during the meeting.
Public Works recently assessed road conditions, and it was discovered the town is behind on the 20-year plan to fix the roads, citing lack of funds.
It was estimated to cost $217,000 next year to get back on track; however the current budget only provides $50,000.
Meanwhile, Town Administrator Johnathan Luiz noted weather and storms have caused the condition of trees in Weston to deteriorate, resulting in them falling down on roads or electrical lines.
Some good news, Spaulding said, came in the form of unemployment in town, which was reported at a low 3.7 percent.
“This is almost where it was back in 2008, when it was at 3.5 percent,” he said. In addition, the number of residents needing help from Social Services has declined.
Though there is a lack of new construction, there has been an increase in building permits for home additions and remodeling as well, Spaulding said.
“I thought the meeting overall went well,” Luiz said.
The Board of Finance will review the budget at its March 4 meeting, and on March 26 a public hearing will take place at Weston Middle School.