Voters OK Beacon Falls budget

Veronica Sharnick of Beacon Falls casts her ballot on the 2014-15 municipal budget May 8 during a town meeting at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. The $6.2 million budget was approved 35 to 11. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Veronica Sharnick of Beacon Falls casts her ballot on the 2014-15 municipal budget May 8 during a town meeting at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. The $6.2 million budget was approved 35 to 11. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

 

BEACON FALLS — The 2014-15 municipal budget was approved by 24 votes Thursday night at a town meeting.

The $6.2 million municipal budget was approved by 24 votes, 35 to 11, through a paper ballot vote at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

“I think they [voters] realize how hard we worked on it,” said Board of Finance Chairman Joe Dowdell about the effort put into the budget by the finance board and Board of Selectmen.

The budget is an increase of $31,318, or 0.5 percent, over current spending.

First Selectmen Christopher Bielik said the budget was a combined effort by both boards. He said officials were able to keep the increase to a minimum by drilling down into operating expenses over the past several years. He said officials looked to see whether the expenditures were actually related to operating costs or capital projects. The capital projects were broken out of the operating budget, he said.

“We are happy and encouraged,” Bielik said after the budget passed. “I think we have established the way forward for this process for the foreseeable future.”

Some of the largest increases in the budget are $33,000 for worker’s compensation, $25,000 more for Social Security, a $24,000 increase for the resident state trooper program and an additional $17,000 in pension costs.

The budget includes reductions in emergency services and the wastewater treatment plant of $49,000 and $47,000 respectively. Some of the expenses for the treatment plant were transferred to capital projects.

The highway maintenance budget was also decreased by $23,852. It’s a reduction some residents raised concerns about during a public hearing on the budget late last month.

An increase of $150,000 in revenue from back taxes also helped to keep the budget increase down. The town has been aggressive in collecting back taxes and projects to collect $400,000 in back taxes in 2014-15, a figure Bielik called a conservative estimate in an earlier interview.

After factoring in the budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, the 2014-15 mill rate is likely to be 32.5, an increase of 0.6 mills. One mill represents $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The Region 16 2014-15 budget, which was approved at a May 6 referendum, is $39.7 million. Beacon Falls’ net education cost under the budget is $10,450,312, an increase of $660,466, or 6.7 percent, over current spending.

The finance board is scheduled to officially adopt the mill rate at its meeting Tuesday.

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