Officials adopt budget for vote

Members of the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen discuss the proposed 2014-15 municipal budget with residents during a public hearing April 29 at Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls. The budget is scheduled to be voted on May 8. –LUKE MARSHALL

Members of the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen discuss the proposed 2014-15 municipal budget with residents during a public hearing April 29 at Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls. The budget is scheduled to be voted on May 8. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Town officials approved a $6.21 million municipal budget for 2014-15 Tuesday night and moved to send the proposed spending plan to a town meeting vote.

The proposed budget is an increase of $31,318, or 0.5 percent, over the current year’s budget.

“I believe that in all my time here in town government this has been the most comprehensive review basically of every department line as far as in really understanding the day in and day out operational costs of what it takes to run this town,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

A town meeting was set for 7 p.m. May 8 to vote on the budget. The meeting will be held at Laurel Ledge School, 30 HIghland Ave.

According to budget documents, some of the largest increases in the spending plan come under employee benefits. Workers’ compensation insurance will increase $33,000 to $150,000, Social Security will go up about $25,000 to $157,000 and pension costs are going up nearly $17,000 to $342,500.

In capital projects, the Department of Public Works is receiving approximately $75,000, which includes the lease purchase of one truck and the reframing of two other trucks.

Proposed spending for capital projects also includes $20,000 for the purchase of new radios for the police department.

These expenses are offset by what Bielik referred to as a “very aggressive” tax collection program implemented by Tax Collector Maryann Holloway.

The budget includes $400,000 of revenue in back taxes, which is an increase of $150,000 from the current budget.

Bielik said described this figure as a conservative estimate and said the town is likely to receive more than that.

The budget was approved following a public hearing on the spending plan held by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance.

One of the main concerns voiced by residents was whether the town had put enough money in the budget to take care of the roads.

“There isn’t anybody in town that doesn’t know our roads are in deplorable shape and they’re getting worse,” Town Treasurer Michael Krenesky said.

Krenesky asked if the proposed budget would allow the town to care for the roads in a way that would help the town.

Resident Doug Bousquet echoed Krenesky’s concern, saying someone could break and axle while driving on the roads.

“These roads, you can’t just put a band-aid on them. You have to rip them up, put in new piping, new everything,” Bousquet said.

The proposed highway maintenance budget is $748,143, which is a decrease of $23,852 from the current budget.

Bielik said the town is trying to take an incremental approach to road repair since there are so many large ticket items, like work at the wastewater treatment plant, which the town will have to pay for in the near future.

Bielik said the town recently applied for grants to help repair Highland Avenue Extension and Beacon Street.

Residents also thanked officials for raising wages for police officers in order to remain competitive and keep officers in town. The budget includes a raise of $2 an hour for police officers.

Board of Finance Chairman Joseph Dowdell said the board worked to keep the budget as low as it possibly could.

“Listening to the comments today I think people are happy with it. When we bring it forward to a public vote on May 8, I think it will do pretty good and pass,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell said as residents head into the town meeting he wants them to know that the board has taken this process very seriously.

“We’re not just spending their money willy-nilly here. We’re doing the best job we can at keeping their taxes down,” Dowdell said.

The town budget does not include education costs for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $39.7 million budget for next school year. The school budget, which will be voted on next week, represents an increase of $1,247,618 or 3.24 percent over current spending in the district. The net education expense for Beacon Falls under the plan is $10,450,312, an increase of $660,466 or 6.7 percent.

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