Town Meeting Vote Approves Budget

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On Thursday, May 11, a special town meeting was held to vote on the proposed FY 2023-2024 $65.4M budget. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting to hear presentations by First Selectman Colin Moll for the Town and Board of Education Maureen Sattan and Superintendent Tim Van Tasel for the school district. Several residents asked questions at the end of the presentations for clarification, mostly directed at the school budget, which were satisfactorily answered.

The vote to approve the budget was unanimous. The approved budget represents a 4% or $2.5 million increase from this year’s budget, but the tax rate will remain at 28.61 mills, the same as last year’s budget.

The largest increase in spending comes from the Board of Education which increased by $2.1 million even though one team of teachers at the middle school will be eliminated due to decreases in class sizes over the last few years. According to Superintendent Van Tasel this plan has been under consideration for a while. A team of teachers who would teach both 7th and 8th grade in their certified subject area would be part of the plan implemented. According to Chairman Sattan the BOE budget increase would have been smaller, but the grant funding from state and federal sources is expected to be reduced by approximately $800,000 next year.

The Town budget increased by $616,042 which is primarily from inflation and rising salary and benefit costs. There was an increase in the grand list of taxable property and investment interest which helped to keep the tax rate even.

Approximately $2.1 M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds was approved benefitting the community in last year’s budget. ARPA was created to address the needs of local communities to fight financial impacts COVID-19 had on our economy. An ARPA Committee was formed to make recommendations for the remaining ARPA funds. Recommendations were finalized at their January 3, 2023 meeting which were then approved by both the Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) January 18, 2023 meeting and the Board of Finance’s (BOF) February 13, 2023 meeting.

Town meeting voters approved spending the remaining $2.6 M from the ARPA monies. The projects for approval at this town meeting were $750,000 for a Fire Department tanker truck ($100,000 was approved for the down payment last year), $540,000 to replace the bulldozer at the landfill and $150,000 to the VFW for improvements to their building, Community organizations received a total of $200,000 – $75,000 to WPCA to assist in design phase of the Stony Brook interceptor, $10,000 for Trees for Suffield, $75,000 for work on town historical assets and buildings and $40,000 to the Land Conservancy to purchase a skid steer to help create new trails. Additionally, funds were approved by the ARPA Committee on April 19, by the BOS on April 19 and by the BOF on April 10. These approved items included $440,000 to the FY 24 Capital Expenditures budget to replace the playscapes at A. Ward Spaulding and McAlister Middle Schools that are in disrepair, $250,000 to add irrigation to both Cervione and Sullivan fields and $305,540 to future projects on the Bridge Street property.

The final two items for the evening were votes on $921,250 for expenditures for the Quarry Road bridge replacement and $750,000 in expenditures for the Russell Avenue bridge replacement both of which will be offset by grants. Both were approved.

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