PROSPECT — Following a public hearing on the proposed 2014-15 municipal budget, the voters will now have the final say on the spending plan.
The Town Council hosted the hearing at Town Hall to hear any comments residents might have on the spending plan. The proposed budget is $7.56 million, which is an increase of $285,676, or 3.9 percent, over the current budget.
“The bottom line of the budget is there is going to be about a $286,000 increase. This is what it is going to cost to run our town, to answer 911 calls for fire, police and medical, to take care of roads in the winter, parks and the senior center. Which is what you kind of expect a town to do,” Mayor Robert Chatfield said.
The council met Wednesday night to approve the budget proposal and voted to send it to a referendum on May 12. A town meeting on the budget will be held April 30 at 7 p.m. at Community School.
The town budget does not include the education spending for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls. The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $39.7 million budget for the coming school year.
Chatfield said some of the driving factors for the increase in the town budget come from Prospect picking up approximately two more miles of roads and the town’s aging population is growing faster than its young population.
The largest increase in the budget, $102,800, comes under truck leases. The increase is comprised of lease payments for a new tanker truck, which holds water, for the fire department and a new loader back hoe for public works. The proposed lease for the tanker truck is eight years with annual payments of $60,200. The new loader back hoe is proposed to be bought with a four-year lease with annual payments of $42,600.
The tanker truck would replace the 37-year-old truck the fire department currently uses.
The proposed budget also includes a nearly $47,000 increase in the police department budget and an additional $37,100 for the fire department.
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.
The increase in the fire department’s budget is made up mostly of new equipment, including replacing three self contained breathing apparatus units, new CPAP breathing equipment for the EMS personnel and four new rescue struts, which can be used to stabilize or lift cars at the scene of an accident. The new struts will replace the current setup the department uses.
The proposed budget also includes an increase of approximately $25,000 for contingency. This includes an extra $5,000 for contingency and an extra $20,000 for the transfer by town council account.
Chatfield said the council’s current practice for transferring money is to take it out of the general fund.
The council has expressed concerns that transferring money out of the general fund to cover shortfalls would cause the town’s bond rating to drop, Chatfield said.
Resident Paul Krisavage, who was the only member of the public to speak at the hearing, said there are times when departments go over their budgeted amount. So, he said, the contingency should be there to make sure the town has enough money to cover those cases.
“I think it’s a misunderstood line item and we should put more in,” Krisavage said.
Krisavage said seeing transfers from contingency to whatever department needs the money will give people a better understanding of how the budget works. He recommended that the council revisit the line item and increase it over the next few years.
“We’re running a really tight budget. Listening to the various arguments from the boards that have come here I think they presented some good arguments for their budgets. I think if we need to shift funds we need to reflect that in the contingency fund,” Krisavage said.
Council Chairman Tom Galvin said the council understands that the economy hasn’t fully rebounded yet and that times are still tight. He said the budget contains increases that the council feels are absolutely necessary.
“The council did a lot of work,” Galvin said. “We’re confident we’re doing the right thing for the people.”