After months of work by various town departments, board and commission volunteers, and the Board of Selectmen, a proposed budget was sent to the Board of Finance Monday night. At the Board of Selectmen meeting, the Board unanimously voted to send to the proposed 2013-14 Town budget of $30,878,098 to the BOF. The proposed budget is not a final product, and will still be under review by the Board of Finance.
The budget is a 1.96% increase, or $564,681, over the current budget. According to the town's press release, "this increase if primarily due to increases in capital expenditures, funding our pensions at levels recommended by our actuary, and increasing funds for road reconstruction and maintenance costs." The initial proposed budget's from Town Departments called for a 3.01% increase.
"What made us really successful in being able to work with our budget was the refinancing of bonds we did of November of last year," First Selectman Joe Mazza said at the meeting. The move reduced debt service this year by $773,336.
The overarching concern of the Board of Selectman was the uncertainty of State revenues that will be allocated to Guilford, considering the state budget deficit. "We are feeling the pressure of the reduction of state funding," said Selectman Gary MacElhiney. "And when they cut funding on a service that we feel is necessary to provide to the resident, it falls on us to come up with the financial support to continue to offer that service. And just because we put something in the budget, doesn't mean we have to spend it. It doesn't mean we will spend it."
"And I think that we are not only offering necessary services, but superior services," said Selectwoman Cindy Cartier. "And we are slowly and surely reducing our increases year to year, so we are moving in the right direction. We don't know what we will face with the state. I support this budget. It is a budget that gets us where we need to go."
Cartier did voice her disappointment that the town had elected not to move forward previously with consolidation of the Board of Eduction. "I'm all about long range planning, and I'm glad we're moving in that direction," said Cartier. "I am disappointed that we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had to consolidate the Board of Education."
Selectwoman Veronica Wallace echoed MacElhiney and Cartier's concern about the state budget and what it means for the town. "I think that all the departments have done a great job with this budget, and I support it, but I am very concerned," Wallace said. "There are so many moving parts to planning this budget 12-18 months out, it's a difficult time to put a budget together. But we looked at every single line item, every single revenue item. We are very cognizant of the stresses taxes put on our residents, but we also have an obligation to provide certain things for this town."
"There is so much we don't know about state revenues, but we don't waste people's money," Mazza added. "The department heads are getting better and better with budgets each year. Much of the increases this year are largely in part to contractual obligations, which were drawn up at a time when the financial state of the economy was much different. Even after all this, we're still only half way there. Now it is up to the Board of Finance to move forward with our proposal."