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Friday, April 20 News

BOF recommends 4.8 percent budget increase

The Board of Finance voted Tuesday to recommend a $138.4 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which represents a 4.8 percent increase from 2013-14.

The board cut $8.5 million from the Board of Selectmen's recommended budget. The new number is about $10 million lower than the total requested by all departments and schools in January.

The Town Council now will take an in-depth look into the budget until its final vote April 11. A public hearing is scheduled for April 2.

The council can continue to reduce the budget, but cannot add to it.

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Though the total town operating, debt service and capital expenses would be $138.4 million with the Board of Finance's recommendation, the amount to be raised by taxation would be $127.3, a 5 percent increase. About $11 million is expected to come from the town's estimated revenues, such as licenses, permits, fines, grants and reimbursements.

The Board of Education's proposed operating budget for 2014-15 is now at $80.9 million, a 3.76 percent increase from 2013-14. The schools' capital budget would be $867,361. However, the Board of Finance recommends that another $1.4 million be taken from the town's capital and nonrecurring fund to pay for the schools' facilities capital projects and technology infrastructure upgrades. The board also recommends that the $2.75 million window project at South Elementary School be bonded.

One of the most discussed topics at Tuesday's meeting was not about a large project, as one would expect. The board debated whether to reinstate $2,500 that had been cut from the Human Services Department's contribution to the Outback Teen Center. The board agreed to do so and recommend a $20,000 contribution to the Outback, the same the teen center received last year.

During the meeting, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi, who is the Board of Finance chairman, asked to have the discussion, which he called "a very political" issue.

"This is an emotional question and we heard very compelling arguments to add (the) $2,500," he said.

At a public hearing March 4, several residents came out in support of the Outback, including two 11-year-olds.

Board member Judy Neville said she supported bringing the funds back to $20,000.

"It's not a lot of money. It seems to me that it's a question of survival," Neville said.

The board also agreed to keep two new police officers in the budget, but it's asking the Town Council to work with the Police Department to see if it's possible not to hire a 47th officer. The 46th officer, which the board agreed to fund last month, would work at Saxe Middle School as a full-time school resource officer. The board is recommending a $5.6 million operating budget for the Police Department -- a 2 percent increase from 2013-14.

The general government's operating budget, which includes the offices of the first selectman, town clerk, assessor, finance and human resources, among others, would be $14 million, a 1 percent increase from the current fiscal year's budget. The original request was $16.7 million.

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Another big chunk of the operating budget, $7.8 million, would go to the Department of Public Works. The amount represents an 8 percent increase over 2013-14.

For a breakdown of the budget, visit newcanaan.info.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter