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Budget advances to town meeting vote on May 17

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KENT—The Board of Finance approved a $15,699,245 municipal budget Friday, May 3, sending it on to a town meeting vote on Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. 

First Selectman Marty Lindenmay presented the 2024-25 annual budget at the hearing May 3 and answered questions. Four members of the Board of Finance attended, as well as 20 residents in person and 9 residents online. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

The budget that received the board’s final imprimatur was about $10,000 more than the one discussed minutes before in a public hearing. Town Treasurer Barbara Herbst said a few figures had received tweaks prior to the hearing but that the changes would not alter the proposed mill rate of 16.26. The budget reflects a total increase of 7.52 percent.

The hybrid meeting was lightly attended, with 20 people in person and nine online, and only people attending in person made comments or asked questions. First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer gave an overview of the specific drivers behind the municipal budget’s increase, while Board of Education Chairman Jen Duncan summarized departmental increases. 

“One of things I want to touch on, this is a well-crafted budget,” said Board of Finance Chairman Nancy O’Dea-Wyrick in opening the hearing. “I do not see it as a budget with a lot of wants; it is a budget with needs.” 

Lindenmayer covered familiar ground, detailing the 3 percent COLA increases for town employees and the $12,500 fund that will be used to provide subsequent salary increases after meeting with departmental leaders. “This is an objective way where they themselves say, ‘This what I want to do with my department.’” 

He noted that early voting is driving up the Registrar of Voters line item. The town must have 21 days of early voting between primaries and the presidential election. Four days for the Presidential Preference Primary cost the town nearly $9,000.

Lindenmayer said the town shares an assessor with two other towns, none of which provide insurance. He said the selectmen decided this was unfair and the budget includes one-third of her cost of insurance. She will pay 10 percent of that third, as do other town employees. In return, she will forego a pay increase.

The line item increase for legal services for the Planning and Zoning Commission results from continuing litigation with High Watch Farm.

The town’s assumption of care for the town’s cemeteries created a new account, with $62,142 a year being dedicated to maintenance as well as operations and $28,000 for a part-time sexton.

Lindemayer noted that grants were increased because of rising expenses for charitable organizations providing services to the town. 

While the Emergency Management budget was cut, Lindenmayer said the town has received a $5,000 grant that makes up for some of the cut. Social Services programs have increased, as has its budget. Similarly, Park and Recreation has increased the number of its programs and asked for an additional of $2,000 to cover more hours for part-time workers.

Duncan said salaries were up about 5 percent contractually and that purchased services would have a $50,000 increase because the school is outsourcing its IT services. There is about an 8 percent increase in insurance and “a sizeable increase” in the bus contract.

The local education budget increased 3.37 increase in total but when combined with the town’s portion of the Region 1 budget education costs increase to 5.56 percent. The total Region 1 budget is $17.7 million, of which $8.9 million supports the high school, $6.9 million goes to pupil services, and $1.7 million to the Regional School Services Center. Kent’s portion of the regional costs is $2.5 million.

Duncan said the Region 1 budget is made of three individual budgets. High school costs are divided among the member towns proportionally by enrollment; pupil services fees are based on the total number of resident students, and the RSSC, which includes the superintendent of school’s salary, is split evenly among the towns. 

Kent has a total of 195 students at Kent Center School and 37 at the high school. 

Matt Starr said he did not agree with the insurance payment for the Assessor, saying the town has many part-time employees and likening it to opening Pandora’s Box. He also questioned the $700,000 in general funds that will be used for the streetscape sidewalks. Lindenmayer said the intent was not to add to current taxation.

Joseph Agli questioned what improvements were planned at Town Hall and was told that a boiler has been replaced and that painting and carpeting will be installed in the coming year.

Questioned about the figure in the budget for snow removal and the amount for sand and salt, Lindenmayer said it is impossible to take a “snapshot” of what to expect after one warm winter. “We will review it over time,” he said.

Starr said that it would be more cost efficient to pay transfer station workers more than to fill in with DPW workers at time-and-a-half. “You have had a position open for a long time,” he said. “The wage offered is under average. Why not pay a decent wage and not pay a guy on union wage overtime?” Lindenmayer said the selectmen will continue to look at the issue.

Kathryn Boughton
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