Kent’s costs grow across the board

KENT — The annual budget process is moving ahead on schedule as the Board of Finance met on Wednesday, March 20, to receive a budget proposal prepared by the Board of Selectmen following weeks of workshop meetings to consider the town’s needs.

The Board of Selectmen’s proposed 2024-25 town budget submitted to the Board of Finance shows anticipated total expenditures of $5,150,195, an increase of $285,127 (5.86%) over the current year.

When combined with the proposed budget for 2024-25 that was submitted by the Board of Education to the Board of Finance on March 13, the overall total proposed town budget totals $14,615,923, an increase of $1,082,334 (7.99%). Anticipated capital projects add another $1,115,001 to the total spending.

Kent’s Region One assessment is up $235,501 (10.27%) over last year.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer reported that a 3% pay increase was applied across the board to all employees.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staffing, using paid coverage, is anticipated to total $320,000 in the coming year, an increase of 39% over the current year. Finance board members asked for an analysis of costs incurred by providing service to the High Watch Recovery program. The analysis would measure what level of service is being provided to nonprofit organizations and the number of people being served who are not town taxpayers.

Discussing the positive effects of the pilot program at the transfer station, finance board member Jason Wright spoke of the value of continuing the food scrap collection program.

“Anything above the rate of inflation makes me jittery,” said Wright in reference to the entire budget proposal. “We’re a small town,” he added, noting that there is budget tension between the local aging population and the needs of young people.

“Overall, we have a number of things we cannot control,” Wright said, although he told the selectmen that the budget bottom line “looks heavy.”

Lindenmayer said that the selectmen will study any recommendations made by the finance board, but that the selectmen feel that the budget as proposed is already cut to the bone.

Employee health insurance was discussed, particularly the choice afforded to opt-out of the insurance. Treasurer Barbara Herbst noted that five employees currently opt out of health insurance, resulting in an overall saving of $110,000 for the town.

Commenting on the Board of Education budget, Wright said that he would like the finance board to measure residents’ opinions on the item ($60,000) that would fund an Armed Security Officer.

The Board of Finance will meet on Wednesday, April 17, to review the proposed budgets and made recommendations.

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