The Finance Council approved the City’s budget on March 4e.
The global budget we sent to city council fully funds our school, police, fire and municipal programs. The budget supports our parks, all demands for health and social services, including important programs such as Kids in Crisis, all emergency services, municipal sports, municipal services, the bird sanctuary of Bristow and many other important programs and initiatives, including the necessary capital. building, road and equipment needs, including a new roof at the secondary school. We were able to support all of these important programs and departments while keeping funds raised through tax stable again for the fourth year in a row. It was a very difficult goal to achieve this year, but everyone did an amazing job. Through careful spending and planning, we have not cut back on school programs, sports, the arts, teachers, important social programs, emergency services and security spending, nor have we been forced to increase taxes as have many districts in Connecticut.
We also know that we still face uncertainty with Covid. The Education Council has requested special appropriations for additional expenses related to Covid. The Finance Council also supports these special appropriations, but has deferred approval of an exact amount until more details, more facts and a better idea of expenses and repayment potential are gathered. We will proceed with the credits once we have a clearer picture. To regard this postponement as any cut would be imprudent and inaccurate. As always, we will work with everyone, including the school board and the school administration, to get it right. Just like we did last year when we approved special credits worth $ 1.9 million to fund Covid-related expenses, such as hand sanitation stations, plexiglass and other items to keep our schools open and our students and teachers safe. It was the right thing to do.
This budget cycle has been exceptionally long and difficult. It really started a year ago, in March 2020, just a few weeks after the current year’s budget was approved. As the pandemic swept the world, financial concerns gripped towns, cities and states. We were prepared. Working with Selectman’s office and city council, we’ve cautiously approved spending, while restraining capital investment for non-urgent projects. With prudent spending, a strong “rainy day” fund, and strong financial management, we were able to meet all of these important priorities without raising taxes.
Today, we remain in good financial health. Our “rainy day” fund is still within the range we expect. Our debt has gone down and our pensions remain fully funded. Our schools have been able to stay open and our city has weathered the storm successfully so far.
City leaders, taxpayers and the Council of Finance fully support our excellent school system as we have for over 25 years. This is why it is a prominent neighborhood. It takes time. We want to keep our large schools for the next decade. This remains our top priority. The budget we approved on March 4e invests $ 101 million in our schools to cover everything including health care, operating costs, teachers, administration costs, aids, substitutes, buses, sports, the arts, expenses in capital and debt; and all other expenses borne by the city for the school board, including board and board costs, 401a costs and rental equipment costs. Over the next decade, we will likely invest over $ 1 billion to support our main school district. This city has always believed that it was an important social responsibility to have a top school district. We will always evaluate the spending and ask how to get the best value for the money spent. But the city’s bodies share a common goal: to create and implement a leading school district every year.
The city council will review the budget, provide its comments and return it to the Finance Council in April. We will finalize some key elements, in particular the amount to be increased by taxation and the thousandth rate. We will finalize our capital plan and then have a final vote in June.
Speaking on behalf of the Finance Council, we are very grateful for all the hours and hard work that each and every department has put into this year’s process under very difficult circumstances. I would also like to thank the Finance Council for an extraordinary job. The job of this council is to respond financially to the growing and important needs of our city and of taxpayers while keeping expenses and taxes under control. They have brought guidance, experience, insight and creativity every week over the past year to help us successfully overcome many challenges, dedicating more hours than ever before. This budget achieves our important objectives, including funding the city’s priorities, while maintaining a solid financial position. We have achieved these goals through all of the good collaborative work that has been done, and through cash management efforts and focused spending disciplines over the past four years.
In short, the current year has been difficult on all fronts. Income is under pressure. We lost $ 1 million for example in revenue from parking fees and permits compared to previous years. Overall, we met all the challenges. Many thanks to our City Employees, Teachers, Selectmen, all of our amazing City Volunteers, including our Education Council and City Council partners, and our parents and taxpayers whom we serve every day. This year we responded to the urgent needs of our municipal employees, our schools and our students. Our job is to make sure that we are able to meet these kinds of needs in any environment.
We will maintain financial strength as a city, while continually improving the assets, services and support our residents expect. In short, offer great value while helping New Canaan succeed financially in good times and bad.
President, Finance Council