Hearing next for Prospect budget

PROSPECT — The Town Council wrapped up its budget workshops April 8 and the public will weigh in next.

The proposed municipal budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year is $7,567,499, which is an increase of about $285,000 or 3.9 percent over current spending. The spending plan will now go to a public hearing April 15 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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.

Assistant Fire Chief William Lauber, who presented the department’s budget Tuesday night, told the council the 37-year-old tanker truck was originally designed to haul trash and redesigned to carry water. He added the current truck has no pumper capabilities, which means it can’t be used to fight fires directly.

The new truck will have pumper capabilities and could be used to fight fires, though that will not be its primary role, Lauber said. He added the new truck will also have an automatic transmission, which is mandated now.

Mayor Robert Chatfield explained the new loader back hoe will replace the one currently at the dump. The current one, he said, is wearing down and has cracks in the boom.

The proposed budget also includes a $46,942 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 budget approved by the council carries an increase that is about $23,000 more than the spending plan Chatfield recommended in March.

An additional $2,800 was added into truck leases. Chatfield’s recommended budget included estimated lease payments of $50,000 for the loader back hoe. That number came in at $42,600.

Chatfield also recommended a 10-year lease to buy the tanker truck with annual payments of $50,000. The council voted instead for the eight-year lease to save thousands of dollars in interest.

The council also increased the transfer by council line item in Chatfield’s recommended budget by $20,000 to $35,000.

Transfer by council falls under the contingency account. It was first established last year to help the council in case it needs to transfer money into other accounts due to unforeseen problems. The account is also intended to avoid taking money out of the town’s fund balance for transfers.

The line item proved controversial last year. The first 2013-14 budget proposal included $75,000 for the account. But, it was eventually lowered to $15,000 after the budget failed at referendum.

Council member Theresa Graveline felt strongly about increasing the account. She said the council transfers money every year and increasing the account will help to stabilize the general fund.

The town budget makes up roughly 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. The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $39.7 million budget for the coming school year.

The council set a meeting for April 16 to consider the public input on the budget. A town meeting on the budget will be held April 30 at 7 p.m. at Community School.

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