We are in the midst of our annual Town budget process. Budgeting always requires tough decisions, and this year we are working under the additional stress of uncertain times for the State budget. As of this writing, we face a potential net loss in funds of $665,000 to our budget. While it is highly unlikely that this will be the final figure, it is likely that we will see a cut of significance to our budget.
The Board of Selectmen started our budget deliberations by closely reviewing all Town Department requests, both for their capital and operating budgets. We made the first round of cuts that will now be reviewed by the Board of Finance. No doubt, there are significant additional reductions ahead. As always, the Boards of Selectmen and Finance work diligently to craft a budget that best balances funding for the first-rate services our residents deserve and expect, including investment in our award-winning schools, with controlling our taxes.
The Beecher Road School and Amity Board of Education budgets together make up approximately 60 % of our budget. Importantly, we as a Town do not control the Amity budget; rather each of us has the opportunity to vote on it at the annual Amity budget referendum.
Another significant element of our budget is debt service, which will increase next year as we begin paying off the bonds that financed the Beecher Road School renovation project.
Of course we recognize that reducing the mill rate is a goal to always keep in mind. Our biggest obstacle is the dearth of commercial and industrial properties in Town: it is our residential property that bears nearly the entire tax burden. An essential part of planning for Woodbridge’s future is exploring and creating opportunities to expand our tax base. To that end, I continue to promote our business district and economic development by supporting our Economic Development Commission and strengthening the ties between Town Hall and Town businesses. We also are strengthening our connection to regional economic development initiatives to be sure Woodbridge is front and center when the region recruits new businesses. Importantly also, we are reviewing our zoning regulations to identify changes that could help with business generation.
Energy saving initiatives is important in helping to reduce our budget and make us a greener community. The recent installation of a fuel cell at Amity Regional High School will provide significant energy savings for the school, which will be passed on to the towns. Our Energy Task Force earned grants that we plan to use toward retrofitting the Library with LEDs, again making us greener and helping us save money. We continue to explore the installation of solar panels on the Acorn Hill capped landfill to provide power for Town buildings at affordable, predictable rates.
Please remember that the Board of Finance’s proposed draft budget will be presented to the Town at the Preliminary Budget Hearing on April 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Center Gym. This is an opportunity for you to learn about the budget in detail and present your questions and concerns.
It is important to me that residents have access to information about our Town. You can learn more at Facebook.com/WoodbridgeCT and by signing up for the Town’s informative email newsletter at www.tinyurl.com/WoodbridgeEnews. If you haven’t already seen our updated website, please visit us at woodbridgect.org. And I hope you are enjoying your first edition of our new monthly newsletter, Woodbridge News and Events!