Now that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Board of Education (BOE) have approved their requested budgets for the 2013-'14 fiscal year, the 2.61 percent increase goes up for approval by the Board of Finance (BOF) before heading to town voters.
The town's proposed budget is $30,878,098, a 1.96 percent increase or $594,681 over the current year. The school's proposed budget is $54,491,186, a 2.98 percent or $1,577,294 increase over the current year.
First Selectman Joseph Mazza stated that if the budgets are approved as-is, the resultant mill rate would rise 0.7 mills to 23.06, a 3.12 percent tax rate increase, which Mazza described as one of the lowest increases in years.
The BOE budget includes adding a total of 1.7 net staff positions. The budget calls for more training for technology and the continuation of the in-house autism program, which launched this year. An alternative high school program with Madison and Clinton is in the works for next year, and would add one half-time administrative position in special education. Two new literacy coaches are included for grades 5 and 6, and a new technology integration specialist and a math position at Adams Middle School are proposed.
Other key drivers to the increase include salary, benefits, tuition, and site improvements, which, out of the approximate $1.5 million requested increase, represent about $1.4 million.
The main drivers to the town's budget increase included capital expenditures, funding pensions at levels recommended by the town's actuary, and increasing funds for road reconstruction and maintenance costs.
Operating expenses increased by $499,000, capital increased by $202,000, road repair and maintenance increased by $100,000, and benefits increased by $849,000. Debt service has decreased by $750,000 due to successful refinancing of $18 million worth of bonds. Salary increases are approximately two percent and there is a $79,000 increase in workers' compensation.
Mazza suggested three bond resolutions totaling $5,991,000 over a two-year period in 2014 and 2015. A priority is to increase capital expenditures, including the elevation of coastal roads such as Old Quarry, Chaffinch Island, and Tuttles Point; equipment replacement for the Guilford Fire Department and Public Works Department; and improvements to town properties.
Following a March 5 public hearing, the BOF will hold a budget workshop on Thursday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Center. If necessary, a second workshop will occur on Monday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.