COVID-19 has created challenges for every resident of Suffield, causing us to adapt to a new normal. Similarly, the Board of Finance has had to make changes to our budget approval process. In past years the Board would review department, Board of Education and other budgets such as capital to develop an overall budget to be presented to the Town. We were planning to have an alternative drive-by-style town meeting and vote on the budget, but clarification was given by the Governor’s office on his executive order, which restricted our ability to implement such a process. While unfortunate and not our desire, the Board of Finance was still able to do the review of various revenue and expenditure proposals and develop a budget for 2020/21. In light of the current challenges faced under the pandemic, the Board of Finance in collaboration with the Board of Education and Selectman set forth to evaluate the impacts to our town operations from a budget standpoint and present a budget that acknowledges the current and pending financial challenges of the taxpayers of the town.
The proposed Budget was presented to the town via a virtual public hearing on May 7 where residents were provided overviews from the Board of Finance, Education and First Selectman. There was a question and answer period and opportunity for the public to submit email questions and comments for the Boards’ consideration leading up to and after that public hearing. The BOF and BOS then had a special meeting on May 21, consistent with the requirements under the Governor’s executive order, to authorize the Board of Finance to approve the budget and set the mill rate. The approved budget was unchanged from that which was reviewed at the May 7 public hearing, and came in at $59,011,181. This represents a decrease of .49% from 2019/20. As a result, the mill approved under the budget is 28.64 and slightly lower than the prior year. State Aid, including payments from the Airport Authority, represent $12.9M which are fairly consistent with the prior year. While these may be at risk given the anticipated state revenue shortfall, the board did not have data from the state to make adjusted projections. Over the past few years, we have not had to reduce year over year operating budgets due to the cuts from the state, but our Fund Balance and capital projects have been impacted negatively which will limit our ability to use them to insulate general operating budgets in the future.
The approved budget is made up of BOE expenditures of $35,901,023 and BOS expenditures of $16,344,750, increases of $353,153 and $249,092, respectively. Debt service represents $3M which is down from the prior year due to the high school bond nearing completion. Capital was also reduced to $2.8M due to an upcoming anticipated bond issuance for projects approved by the town such as roads, town hall renovation, and recent fire truck purchases among others. This helped us to get to a slight reduction in the mill rate. Detailed information with regards to the budget can be found at the town’s website