Guilford budget calls for 6.8% increase

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Feb. 15, 2008

GUILFORD — Town officials presented a 2008-09 municipal budget to the Board of Finance Thursday night that included a 6.86 percent increase over current spending.

The town’s preliminary budget is $27.5 million, an increase of about $1.76 million over this fiscal year, First Selectman Carl Balestracci said. That figure includes the operating budget and debt costs.

Balestracci said the increases were spread throughout the budget, and included jumps in salaries, health insurance, utilities and capital spending.

The town is proposing a capital budget of about $972,000 for fiscal 2008-09 which includes $330,000 for two new public works dump trucks. Balestracci said that the town has in recent years reduced the capital budget to “dangerously low” levels, although he did not have the amount in the current budget immediately available.

“We’ve been putting off a replacement program for the large dump trucks for public works for several years, and we really can’t put it off any more,” he said. “One of the trucks just completely died on us this year and it can’t be fixed, so we’re at the point where we really have to begin a replacement program.”

The town also recommends the addition of four firefighters and one police officer, all of whom would begin in the middle of the fiscal year, and an increase in the budget for the Social Services Department, which is moving into a larger building.

“We prioritized the needs for new personnel and our priority was emergency services, hence fire and police,” Balestracci said. “We denied requests from several other departments for new personnel.”

The school district also presented a budget proposal at Thursday’s meeting, putting forth a $48.3 million 2008-09 budget that represents a 5.95 percent increase from the current year.

The Board of Education approved that budget at its Feb. 4 meeting.

The Board of Finance is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the budget March 4 and a workshop meeting March 6 before its next regular meeting March 17.

The town referendum, where voters may approve or reject the budget, is scheduled for April 8.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said Board of Finance members had some questions about the budget proposal Thursday night, but most discussion will happen in the public hearing and subsequent meetings.

“I would fully anticipate lengthier questions and thoughts at the first hearing, where we will again be available to answer any of the Board of Finance’s questions,” Bloss said.

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