The first look at the town's Fiscal Year 2014 budget showed a nearly 11 percent increase over last year's budget, an increase of $13.7 million for a total of $139.3 million.
The preliminary budget was presented Tuesday night at a combined Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council meeting at the New Canaan Nature Center. The total includes more than $79 million to the Board of Education.
The budget listed a $4.1 million increase in capital spending, an increase of $1.8 in pension spending -- although Budget Director Jennifer Charneski noted that in an attempt at further transparency, this was the first budget that included benefit allocation listed out -- and a $4.6 million increase for the Board of Education.
One of the largest increases on the town's side came from the Public Works Department's capital budget, which requests a 103 percent increase from $1.4 million to $2.9 million. The Public Works capital budget decreased last year from $2 million in FY12 to $1.4 million in FY13. The department's biggest project is $575,000 for an electrical, drainage and sanitary upgrade to the fire house, which Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann said in desperate need of work. He said some of the systems date from the 1937 construction of the fire house.
Since Tuesday night was only the first read, the $139 million budget will face fine tuning before heading to the Board of Finance and then the Town Council.
"It's a good start," BOF member John Sheffield said after the meeting. "It's always a balance between the need to provide excellent services for residents versus keeping a responsible tax rate. All three town bodies will have to work hard to figure out what needs to get done this year, particularly as it relates to capital [expenditures]."
Selectman Nick Williams sounded a similar tone.
"We've got a lot to look at," he said. "Clearly this isn't the last word. Some departments are looking for material increases. I'm sure they're good increases, but we've got to do a cost benefit analysis. The economy is still in pretty bad shape, nationally and statewide."
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