By Bob McGarry, Haddam First Selectman
(April 12, 2023) — The process to develop the town budget for next year (7/1/23 – 6/30/24) is well underway. The town budget has four main parts:
- Town Operations – Funds the day to day activities of the town. It includes support we provide to local non-governmental organizations such as Brainerd Memorial Library, Haddam Historical Society, etc.
- Capital Improvement – Funds capital projects such as road work, major building maintenance (e.g. roof replacement), vehicle purchases, etc.
- Debt Service – Principal and interest payment on bonds and other debt
- Regional School District 17 fee – Our portion of the total school budget
Even though our current year’s budget (7/1/22 – 6/30/23) is about $35 million, we have control over only $8.3 million or about 24% of it. Why is that, you may ask. We decide how much to put into the town operations budget (20% of the total budget) and the capital improvement budget (4%) but not debt service or the RSD17 fee. Debt service (4% of the budget) is determined by the terms of the debt we’ve taken on. The RSD 17 fee is 72% of our budget. The percentages I’ve given you vary only slightly from year to year. They are typical for towns our size that are part of a regional school district.
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) has approved the town operations budget and debt service budget. It’s posted on the town website. The Board of Finance (BOF) has approved most of the operations budget and the debt service budget. Both boards are finishing work on the capital improvement budget. By the end of the month the BOF will finalize the proposed town budget. It will be posted on our website.
Two things to think about as you’re evaluating this and future budgets:
- The second largest taxpayer in town is Connecticut Yankee; currently they pay about $1.3 million annually. Like most of you, I’ve always thought they’d be around for decades, if not generations. I’m not so sure of that anymore. In December 2021, the Department of Energy initiated a process for Consent Based Siting of interim long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel. Their intent is to reduce the number of facilities like CY that are storing spent fuel. I think it’s optimistic, but their timeline indicates the first interim storage facility could open in 10 to 15 years. The town did a poor job of preparing for the closure of the power plant in 2004 and the loss of tax revenue from it. After it happened, we scrimped on capital projects to address some of the loss and now we’re paying for the results of that. We have to be better prepared for when the spent fuel is removed and the site shuts down. We need to invest now in our capital assets, roads, buildings and vehicles to keep them in good working order.
- RSD17 commissioned an engineering evaluation of their buildings. That study, completed in 2021, identified $105 million of work to be performed over the next 10 years to return the buildings to a “Fair” condition. (The study is on their website, www.rsd17.org.) RSD17 is deciding how to proceed. Regardless of what they decide, my point is we shouldn’t think we can push some of our capital needs out a year or two expecting that our other expenses will go down.
Upcoming critical dates:
- The RSD17 budget vote will be on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. The proposed budget is posted on the RSD17 website. Last year, our voter turnout for this vote was only 13%. Please vote.
- The Town Hearing on the budget, where the BOF presents the proposed town budget, answers questions and accepts input will be on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
- The Town Meeting to vote on the budget is on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.