Finance Board Begins Budget Considerations

2014-2015 Town Budget Breakdown

Approved budget 2013-2014 $22,142,877

Non-discretionary increases $472,369

Increases in public safety $499,522

Other significant changes $260,874

Recommended budget 2014-2015 $23,375,642

2014-2015 Education Budget Request

Operational budget $43,801,136

Planned, cycled maintenance $237,938

Health insurance $6,210,735

Debt service $2,686,119

Total comprehensive budget $52, 935,928

The Board of Finance begins its considerations of the 2014-2015 town and education budgets this week and next. The meetings follow last week's sparsely attended budget public hearings at which First Selectman Fillmore McPherson presented the Board of Selectmen's requested town budget of $23.4 million (a 5.57 percent increase) and Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice presented the Board of Education's $52.9 million requested budget (a 2.03 percent increase).

Town Budget

In his presentation, McPherson described the three areas of major budget increases. These included non-discretionary increases (wages, pensions, insurance, and social security), public safety (ambulance, police, fire, Public Works, and communications), and other (reserve funds, public works equipment, additional personnel, Scranton Library, and Madison Alcohol and Drug Education [MADE] Coalition).

In its deliberations after a series of budget workshops with town department heads, chairs of boards and commissions, and others, the Board of Selectmen "agreed with a fair number of requests" for additional personnel, equipment, or services, McPherson said.

"A major chunk of the increases went into public safety, including the addition of a paramedic for the ambulance service night shift and the reserve fund for replacement of our communications equipment."

Increases in public safety spending include $125,000 for the additional night shift paramedic, $27,874 for the town's share of a school resource officer, $41,648 for increased costs for police purchases, $5,000 for equipment for the Madison Hose Co., and $20,000 to add to the snow removal budget. There are also increases in capital reserves for public safety, including $250,000 for the communications reserve, $25,000 for the ambulance reserve, and $5,000 for the Madison Hose Co. truck reserve.

There are increases as well in non-discretionary accounts. Chiefly, these included a $278,634 increase in wages and $99,452 in pensions. While there is an expected decrease of $50,000 in legal fees, there are some increases due to new requests. These included additional part-time personnel for the town clerk and the Beach & Recreation Department and additional hours for the program coordinator at the senior center.

For 2014-2015, the town's long term capital maintenance fund will receive significantly less than the $1.2 million it has received in each of the last few years. The requested budget recommends an appropriation of just $295,000-$200,000 for planning and engineering, and $95,000 for replacement of the wooden play structure at Island Avenue School.

Education Budget

Scarice presented a comprehensive budget that shows a 2.03 percent increase when compared with the approved education budget for this fiscal year. The request for 2014-2015 will allow the school district to achieve its vision for improving education into the 21st century, Scarice said. The budget permits the continuation of innovations in the instructional program as well as continuation of the technology plan.

The total budget request is $1,055,064 more than this year's budget.

The next scheduled Board of Finance budget review sessions are Tuesday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in the community room of the Police Department; Thursday,
March 6 at 7 p.m. in the Town Campus Hammonasset Room; Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. at the Town Campus; Thursday, March 13 at 7 p.m. at the Town Campus; and Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m., if necessary, also at the Town Campus.

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