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On Feb 7, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) approved a proposed $30,607,971 town operating budget for fiscal year 2019-’20, an increase in spending over last year of $1,140,993 or 3.87 percent. The town operating budget, together with the proposed Board of Education (BOE) budget of $60,675,831 (a $1,178,656 or 1.98 percent increase) and the debt service (up $1,019,690 or 12 percent), bring the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year to $100,800,146, an increase in spending of $3,339,339 or 3.43 percent.
With that total, the town’s projected mill rate comes to 31.97, a mill increase of 0.69 or 2.20 percent.
Both budgets will be presented to the Board of Finance (BOF) on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the BOF meeting. The BOF will then schedule its regular series of public hearings and workshops on the budget starting in early March before sending final budgets to voters.
First Selectman Matt Hoey said the town budget, which includes the capital budget, reflects an increase in the cost of doing business, not necessarily large investments or projects.
“These are the costs we have identified to continue to run the town in a manner in which the public has come to expect,” he said. “We are fully funding health care benefits and the actuarially recommended levels of the pension benefit.”
For the town budget, department heads submit requested budgets to the BOS. The initial requested budget, including capital, came to $32,921,861 before the selectmen went through and cut roughly $2.3 million out of department and capital requests. Some of the largest cost drivers in the operating budget include contractual obligations like a jump in employee benefits and significant increases in departments like human resources and information technology.
Additionally, this year the town is seeing another increase in debt. The total debt service for this year is $9,516,344, an increase of $1,019,690 or 12 percent. That number includes the debt from the new high school and other town and school debt. Finance Director Maryjane Malavasi said the town has one more year of a debt increase after this.
“We have one more year with a jump,” she said. “In 2020-’21 we anticipate being our last jump and then after that we would come down.”
Looking at the revenue side of the budget, Hoey said he was pleased to see that the Grand List went up by half a percent.
“That means additional tax revenue that wasn’t on the books last year,” he said.
Looking at the revenue side of the budget, the town built in a series of assumptions in regard to state aid. Normally by this point in the calendar year, the governor would have released a state budget and the Guilford Finance Department could use those preliminary numbers as placeholders. However, with the turnover in administration in Hartford, the new governor has been granted extra time to put forward a budget. With no word from Hartford yet, the town used the grant amounts from this year as a placeholder.
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