Budgets Rise, Mill Rate Shouldn’t (Much)

Costs rise next year in predictable categories for both the Town and school district, but budgets approved on March 30 by the Board of Finance represent a barely perceptible potential increase to the mill rate.

The finance board won’t set the mill rate until May, after a public budget referendum on April 29. Barring further measures by the board, the mill rate would increase less than four-tenths of a percent (0.39%) if the budgets are approved as proposed.

Board chair Michael Imber said the increase would add about $63 a year to the tax on an average Weston home, valued at around $700,000. The annual tax bill for a $2 million home would rise by about $182.

This despite a 2.76 percent increase in the Board of Education’s operating budget (to $57,949,055) and a 4.66 percent increase for the Town (to $15,369,556).

The great majority of rising costs are contractual salary increases, higher health insurance premiums, a larger contribution to the municipal employees retirement system, and energy costs.

Relief on mill rate pressure comes from a 1.2 percent growth in Weston’s tax base (the Grand List), driven by new home construction and renovations. More comes from a tax collection rate higher than estimated in last year’s budget, and a sharp decline in debt service as bonds issued nearly 20 years ago approach maturity.

Capital items

The proposed budget for big-ticket capital expenditures increases significantly to a net $3.4 million (rounded), $2.6 million for Town projects and $833 thousand for the schools.

Major items include the purchase of a replacement for the Rescue 5 fire truck, already partly financed by $535 thousand from ARPA funds and $165 thousand contributed by the Weston Volunteer Fire Department’s endowment.

Other major projects include renovations at the Weston Police station (partly funded by the state), replacement of an inoperable Public Works truck, replacement of the asphalt base of the Weston High School track (not the track itself), and a substantial addition to annual road paving funds.

What comes next

Voters have their say on the budgets in the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), which essentially has two parts.

The meeting part of the meeting takes place on Thursday, April 20 at 8:00 pm in the Weston High School Auditorium. If a quorum of registered voters are present (which almost never happens), votes can be taken to reduce budgets but not increase them.

Part two is the Budget Referendum, a machine ballot vote. That is scheduled for Saturday, April 29 from noon to 8:00 pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room. Those who attend the ATBM meeting on April 20, quorum or no, can cast their ballots that evening. Technically, so can any other registered voter.

The Board of Finance is scheduled to set the mill rate on May 1.

Also in Weston Today...