Mayor recommends $7.5M budget

PROSPECT — Mayor Robert Chatfield presented a $7.5 million municipal budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year to the Town Council Monday night.

The spending plan represents about a $262,000, or 3.59 percent, increase over the current budget.  

As Chatfield handed out budget documents to the council, he emphasized for council members and those in the audience that the town budget represents only 25 percent of residents’ tax dollars. The remaining 75 percent goes to the budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls.

Chatfield said neither he nor the council have any authority over school spending.

“We get one vote a year like all the other taxpayers in Prospect,” he said.

Of the 60 main line items in Chatfield’s proposed town budget, 37 increased, eight decreased and 15 stayed the same.

The largest proposed increase, $99,643, comes under truck leases.

Chatfield said the fire department is looking to replace a 37-year-old tanker truck and the public works department is looking for a new loader back hoe and a mini dump truck.

The proposal also includes a $46,942 increase in the police budget and an additional $37,100 for the fire protection budget.

Nearly $40,000 of the increase for the police budget will go to increases for officers and the resident state trooper, according to budget documents.

Chatfield said the increase in fire protection is made up mostly of new equipment, including replacing self contained breathing apparatus units. 

Chatfield is also recommending a $25,000 increase in the ice and snow budget. Chatfield said the town has had to make two transfers into the account so far to deal with the weather this winter.  

The Prospect Library would see one of its largest increases in a few years under the proposal. The plan includes a $21,931 increase for the library budget. The increase includes $5,000 for a new capital and non-recurring account for the library.

Chatfield said the library is going on 24 years old and still has the original furnace and air condition unit. The account is eyed to build up some funds so if those units fail the town has some money set aside to replace them.

The budget also includes a new line item, with $2,500 in funding, for the Economic Development Commission. 

“I’m hoping to really rejuvenate that,” Chatfield said of the commission.

In late February Chatfield organized a meeting of Prospect business owners to help kick-start a business group in town.  

In a subsequent interview, Chatfield said the proposal is what it costs to run the town, which has more and more people, roads and parks.

“I always try and watch everyone’s dollar,” he said.

The council approved 24 of the line items, which it has little or no discretion over, in the budget Monday night in an effort to streamline the process. The items can be reopened if the council decides to revisit them.

The council will now review the budget in a series of workshops this month and in April. The first workshop is scheduled for March 18 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 15 with a town meeting set for April 30.

Following the meeting, Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin said even though the economy isn’t doing as well as everyone would like, prices and the cost of running the town have gone up. He described the proposal as a modest increase and said the council is hoping to get a lot of public input during the budget process.

“We really listen to the public,” he said. “They’ll tell us what to do.”

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