Annual Budget Process Overview
The following is a brief overview of the annual budget process that covers the structure of the budget, key expense and revenue drivers and the steps involved in the approval process. This is not meant to be all inclusive but rather to provide a better understanding of the process and a framework for following along.
For specifics on the most recent budget, please visit our budget home page.
The Town of Fairfield's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. In the spring of any particular year, the budget that is approved commences on July 1.
There are three main components to the budget on the expense side:
- Board of Education - a single line item in the budget
- Town Side - department budgets, reserves for insurance, risk management
- Debt Service
There are three main sources of revenue:
- Local Tax Revenue (residential and commercial)
- Non-Tax Revenue
- State Grants
Budget Approval Process
The budget goes through a lengthy approval process. The steps are as follows:
- Town departments prepare their budgets beginning in late October.
- Town departments present their budget requests to the First Selectwoman in December and January.
- The Superintendent presents his/her recommended budget to the Board of Education in early January.
- Prior to February 1st, the Board of Education makes adjustments up or down, votes on the education budget and sends its recommendation to the First Selectwoman.
- The First Selectwoman prepares his/her budget recommendations in February and presents them to the Board of Selectmen in early March.
- Once the budget has been presented, the Board of Selectmen holds daytime public hearings.
- In early-to-mid March, the Board of Selectmen makes adjustments, up or down, votes on the budget and sends its recommendations to the Board of Finance.
- In mid-to-late March the Board of Finance holds evening public hearings and one Saturday morning public comment session (this year's is pending due to COVID-19; details to follow).
- In late March/early April, the Board of Finance makes adjustments, up or down, votes on the budget, and sends its recommendations to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
- Within ten days of the Board of Finance vote, any department, commission or board may appeal to the RTM to restore a cut made by the Board of Finance. This is a formal request and must follow the guidelines in the Town Charter. Restoration of funding requires a two-thirds vote of the RTM.
- The RTM committees meet on the budget in early April. The RTM then votes on the budget in early May.
- After the RTM has voted, a referendum can reduce or increase any line item in the budget, but the line item cannot be increased above the amount approved by the Board of Finance for that line item.
- Based on the RTM approved budget and final Board of Assessment Appeals adjustments, the Board of Finance sets the mill rate for the upcoming fiscal year in early May following the RTM vote.
Capital requests valued between $100,000 and $1 million are handled through the non-recurring capital process and capital projects over $1 million are handled through the capital bonding process. These processes are separate and apart from the annual budget process and typically voted on in January and February.