Budgets Set, Big Mill Rate Drop Projected

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Budget proposals finalized on Monday evening by the Board of Finance could result in a mill rate reduced to 23.81 per thousand of assessed valuation, down about 28 percent from the current 33.06.

At that level, said First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor in our Tuesday interview, about half of Weston homeowners — those whose property valuation increased around or below the average (roughly 42 percent) — could see lower net taxes, partly depending on the number and value of vehicles they own. Vehicle taxes drop substantially with the lower mill rate.

At the moment, a 23.81 mill rate is prospective. The Board of Finance is scheduled to set the final rate on May 6, after voters weigh in at the Annual Town Budget Meeting on April 24 and the Budget Referendum on May 4. (See The Calendar for times and places.)

The finance board approved a Town operating budget of $16,063,078, a 4.51 percent increase over the current year. The operating budget approved for the Board of Education comes to $59,339,701, up 2.41 percent, but down more than one quarter-million from the district’s initial request.

For the first time in 10 years, said Ms. Nestor, net total spending — the key figure that determines tax bills — is reduced, coming in .26 percent below last year’s level. The net total is the sum of both operating budgets, debt service, and capital expenditures.


The Board of Finance initially lopped off $400,000 from the Board of Education request, on the basis that the school district has run a surplus for the past two years. But later, about $140,000 had to be added back for pension fund contributions.

The unexpected budget reduction generated surprisingly little pushback from Board of Education chair Steve Ezzes and Superintendent Lisa Barbiero, who essentially said they could live with it and would make needed adjustments. Ms. Barbiero noted that in no event would staff positions be cut.

A majority of the board voted down a motion to cut the much smaller Town operating budget by almost as much, about $320,000, by eliminating proposed new staff positions and reducing allocations for Public Works contractual services and the tree warden’s maintenance program.

Differences of opinion on the board boil down to whether the Town could do without the positions and programs or whether they are needed to correct longstanding needs for staff to run the Town responsibly, manage projects, and deliver services.

Those differences extend to diverging views on the percentage by which the approved Town operating budget increases, or more accurately, the perception of how much it does, arithmetic notwithstanding.

The budget is structured differently this year, so an “apples to apples” comparison to prior years gets tricky, because the apples are not of the same variety.

A key difference is how road paving is budgeted this year. In the past, paving costs appeared in the Town’s operating budget as a figure so comparatively large that it stood at attention and saluted. Not this year. In fact, it isn’t budgeted at all. (More on that later.)

Instead, much of the amount usually set aside for paving is used for special expenses — such as money reserved to get a head start on replacing a retiring police officer — and catching up on the First Selectwoman’s priority to improve services by doing a bit of staff muscle-building.

Capital expenditures

In addition to approving a debt service budget just over $1 million (miles down from prior years) the board okayed a capital budget of $3,886,646, about $600,000 less than the initial request. The lesser amount is mainly due to the availability of offsets — funds left over from projects that are now complete.

A motion was voted down that would have nixed replacing the aged and apparently decrepit modular unit called the Town Hall Annex, which houses some Town, school district, and police functions. The motion would have also reduced allocations for construction supervision, project management, and project planning, including planning for whatever else could be done about the Annex.

Members disagreed on both need and speed. Voting aye for the cut, member Rone Baldwin said the state of the Annex “isn’t that dire.” Chair Michael Imber said, “the state of the Annex scares the hell out of me,” citing an infestation of “varmints,” a leaky roof, sagging floors, a foul odor, and the risk of liability for injuries.

The project would install a new temporary unit until a comprehensive plan takes shape to permanently reconfigure Town facilities. In Tuesday’s interview, the First Selectwoman said this would also allow Parks and Recreation staff to vacate the Jarvis facility, which could then be sold for commercial development as part of the Village District, producing a new source of revenue.


The ambitious plan to catch up on road paving, unveiled in January, calls for investments of around $4½ million in each of the next two years. After that, a much smaller amount would be routinely budgeted for maintenance.

The two-year program would be funded by bond anticipation notes (BANs), short-term debt that is paid off when larger bonds are issued, such as those expected in the next few years for school construction.

At the moment, the $4½ million figures are rough estimates. Barring delays, needs will come into more specific relief by the end of April when BETA, the engineers engaged by the Town to assess road conditions and help develop plans, completes an analysis of conditions on all Weston public roads.

At that point, plans will have to be put together in time for a Special Town Meeting Ms. Nestor said she expects to call in May, because bonding must be approved by voters. Before that, a package must go through the Board of Finance.

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