Selectmen talk budget

BEACON FALLS — Without the aid of a finance director, officials are forging ahead with crafting the 2014-15 municipal budget.

The Board of Selectmen held a special meeting Monday night to discuss the spending plan.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the board didn’t have definitive totals for most of the lines of the budget, so they were working with soft numbers. A total figure for the 2014-15 spending plan was not given.  

Bielik described the meeting as more of a workshop.

“There are big things that will affect this budget, both positively and negatively. What it will finally look like we won’t know until the dust settles on all of it,” Bielik said.

One of the changes is all union and most non-union employees will receive a 2.5 percent increase in their wages.

Bielik said the union contracts called for a 2.5 percent raise, so he thought it would be only right to extend that same offer to non-union employees.

“We’re going to make sure nobody is left out,” Bielik said.

The increase does not affect the selectmen’s salaries, which will remain flat.

Another large change will come under workers’ compensation insurance, Bielik said.

Two years ago the town paid $98,000 for the insurance and this year they are currently paying $117,000.

During that time, the town has had over $100,000 in claims each year, Bielik said. The most recent came when a firefighter broke his arm after he fell through the floor while battling a fire at 144 Blackberry Hill Road in September.

Bielik said this has put the town in a “high risk” category, which will drive the town’s cost rate up. The town will likely pay $150,000 for the insurance in this coming budget, he said.

The town is also facing an increase for the resident state trooper program.

Bielik said there was a statewide revaluation of the program where the cost-sharing between the state and municipalities and the overtime pay was brought into question.

“There are a lot of things on the table, but the bottom line for us is that the total charge for the resident trooper is going to go up from $99,000 to about $123,000,” Bielik said.

Not all of the changes to the proposed budget are increases, however.

Bielik pointed out that this year the town has renegotiated some of its bonds, which brought about a $38,000 savings in the current budget. Bielik said he expects to see even more savings from this in the upcoming budget as well.

He expects the total savings over the life of the bonds to be approximately $275,000.

While Bielik was able to explain some of the expenses and savings coming up, he wasn’t able to provide a final budget estimate. This is due in part to the town not having a financial director.

The town’s previous financial director, Manny Gomes, resigned in January. Since that time the town has been searching for a replacement.

The town currently has 11 applicants, and plans to hold interviews for the top candidates next week, Bielik said.  If the interviews go well, Bielik hopes to offer the top candidate the job and have him in place two weeks after that.

Bielik said not having a finance director is problematic from a strategic planning perspective, since he is not able to sit down with someone on a weekly basis to see where all the numbers are and what he can do to influence them for the rest of the fiscal year.

“That’s something I don’t have and that’s an asset I think we need desperately,” Bielik said.

The board is scheduled to meet again Thursday to continue the budget discussion. Bielik said he wants the board to be able to present some figures to the Board of Finance on April 8.