NEWTOWN — The Board of Selectmen, meeting Monday, February 3, approved the proposed 2020-21 town budget, which totals $43,211,959.
Before the approval, the selectmen made a few adjustments to the budget as originally proposed by the first selectman, starting with a suggestion from the first selectman, Dan Rosenthal, to increase the fire training budget from $63,000 to $71,500.
He noted that the lower amount was entered into the budget because he had examined what he assumed were actual expenses in the past and thought that a lower number would be sustainable.
After talking with members of the fire department and listening to representatives during a previous board meeting, Mr. Rosenthal agreed that the higher number better reflects actual need.
He also recommended a $3,300 increase for Sandy Hook Fire insurance with a corresponding reduction in capital compared to last year.
Finance Director Bob Tait is researching insurance payments by the town’s fire companies to see if the town could take on certain payments for an overall savings.
Selectman Jeff Capeci recommended that, next year, departments define what equipment is expected to be replaced and in what year, much like the way the Capital Improvement Plan looks ahead. “The police… do that with their vehicles.”
He added that it would be useful to know what maintenance costs are associated with equipment such as vehicles.
The first selectman said he wants to look at per hour costs when considering equipment purchases, including the cost of paying an employee to run the machine in question.
Mr. Capeci described the budget as a same-services budget and told Mr. Rosenthal, “I think what you cut was largely capital and it’s good to hold those costs.”
During public participation, resident Dan Wiedemann commented that large expenses such as vehicles and equipment requested by the Parks and Recreation Departments might be offset by setting aside funds in the capital non-recurring fund.
Mr. Rosenthal agreed with the idea of trying to level expenditures, noting that several internal leases for equipment make that effort more difficult because those spread out payments make it difficult to save.
The only internal lease left will be for a truck and he hopes this change will allow the town to change its practices.
Mr. Tait pointed out that, whether an appropriation is described as a department expense or listed in the capital non-recurring fund, the general fund budget would still increase by the same amount.
He said a 10-year capital plan would be beneficial if it included details such as the age of existing equipment, a plan and photos that associate equipment with acreage to be maintained.
This type of documentation could be a good exercise for both Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments to complete, he noted.