It’s early, but it has begun — budget discussions for fiscal year 2021.

At the Nov. 18 Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Administrator Kate Buch said Darien has “held the line” on the town budget “quite well” over the last few years.

“We did have a bump in employees last year where we budgeted for four new employees, which was unusual for us,” Buch added. “We don’t usually experience that kind of growth.”

“But we still came in with a very responsible budget,” she said.

Narcotics investigator

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the one personnel item that will be important for her, prior to talking about any additional personnel in the police department, is hiring a narcotics investigator.

“That was something that was promised going to civilian dispatchers in the day shift,” Stevenson said.

“Adding the evening ones was the key to that,” Buch said.

Budget direction

After speaking with Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky, Stevenson said Zagrodzky doesn’t believe this year’s budget direction — from the Board of Finance perspective — will deviate much from last year’s.

She added there aren’t a lot of capital projects on the horizon for the Board of Selectmen, aside from helping with the new Ox Ridge Elementary School.

“Our focus should really be on technology and building in efficiencies with the use of technology in our departments as a hedge for the future against personnel growth,” she said.

Taxes

The biggest message Stevenson said she has heard from residents during the past election cycle has been “Please don’t raise my taxes.”

She added that this is “impossible to do” with the contractual obligations the town has, both on the town side and on the Board of Education side.

The Board of Education is the primary driver of mill rate increases in the town, according to Stevenson.

Services

Stevenson said that as a new board, to make a “meaningful impact” or look to “mitigate cost increases,” they should look at what services they might not wish to deliver any longer.

“So far, our community has not expressed a desire to change or limit the services that we provide,” she said.

Watch the full Board of Selectmen meeting on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com