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Fairfield Trims Spending On Schools, Paving

Members of Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting look over the town's budget before their vote Monday night.
Members of Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting look over the town's budget before their vote Monday night. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s legislators made changes to the town’s spending on education and paving as part of more than $1.6 million in savings for taxpayers they made official Monday night.

The Representative Town Meeting held Fairfield’s final vote on the 2013-14 budget Monday night. In addition to the $672,000 in savings for debt repayments and fuel costs announced by First Selectman Michael Tetreau last week, the RTM cut another $1 million in spending.

“Some would prefer us to have been able to cut deeper, some of you might think we’re cutting too deep,” Majority Leader Joseph Palmer said on behalf of the RTM’s Republicans, who proposed the changes. “But we believe that this is a meaningful yet reasonable proposal that continues the progress made by other town bodies in trimming the budget and delivering Fairfield a more affordable tax increase.”

The RTM voted to reduce the Board of Education’s funding request by $500,000 on Monday. The school board had asked for $155.8 million in town funding for the 2013-14 school year, an increase of about $6.9 million from the current year. New estimates for healthcare and pension costs took about $1.8 million out of the request, and the Board of Finance voted to reduce that by an extra $1.25 million.

After the RTM’s change Monday, Fairfield Public Schools funding will increase about $2.25 million next school year, or 1.5 percent. The school board estimates that its increased healthcare costs will rise by more than that, so the district will have to make other changes to account for the loss of funding.

“I think the Board of Education is faced with a daunting task of trying to figure how to make this $1.25 million (cut) without really reduction what our students gain,” Democratic RTM member Sheila Marmion said before the 28-21 vote. “I cannot support this cut.”

The RTM also decided to cut $250,000 from the town’s allotment for road paving, which the Board of Selectmen had already reduced by $500,000. Fairfield now plans to spend about $2,750,000 on road work in the fiscal year, down from the $3.5 million requested by Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo.

“It is necessary to maintain our 275 miles of road,” Michelangelo said. “And any road we don’t do this year simply gets deferred and goes down the scale.”

The other $250,000 saved Monday night came from Fairfield’s contingency fund, which will now be at about $2.2 million. The town uses this allotment for unexpected expenses, such as the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It also covers money the town expects to spend but does not have exact figures for, such as possible retroactive raises negotiated in union contracts.

In total, Fairfield’s final 2013-14 budget calls for $278,465,591 in town spending, an increase of about 2.3 percent over the current year. The Board of Finance will meet Wednesday night to set Fairfield’s new mill rate, which determine property taxes this July.

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