Council gets first look at town budget

PROSPECT — Mayor Robert Chatfield presented a proposed $8.1 million town budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year to the Town Council Tuesday night.

The proposal is an increase in spending of $328,980, or roughly 4.2 percent, over the current budget. Among the largest increases are $62,841 more for the police department, $44,185 more for the recreation department and $42,560 more for the volunteer fire department.

The increase in the police department budget, which is proposed at $891,629, includes about $34,000 more for officers. The department has one part-time administrative lieutenant and 16 part-time officers. The cost for the resident state trooper program is going up nearly $17,800 to $162,757 as well.

The cost for the resident state trooper has steadily gone up for recent years. The cost was nearly $124,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to budget documents. The steady increases have caused towns that use the program to look for alternate options. Mayor Robert Chatfield informed the council Tuesday that he has talked with Naugatuck Mayor N Warren “Pete” Hess about possibly sharing some police services so the town can break away from the program, though nothing is set in stone.

“We’re investigating all possibilities,” Chatfield said in a subsequent interview.

The increase in the recreation department’s budget, which is going up to $251,522, is driven by a $30,000 increase for making improvements to the parks.

The proposed fire department budget is $388,110. The increase includes $20,000 more to purchase self-contained breathing apparatuses and about $2,000 more for training due to increases in the fee for courses.

The town budget only covers municipal expenses. The vast majority of local taxes go to Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin presented a nearly $40.6 million school budget for 2016-17 in February. As of last week, the proposed school budget stood at about $40.51 million, which is about $17,500 less than current school spending.

The council will delve into the details of the town budget over a series of upcoming budget workshops. A public hearing on the final budget plan is scheduled for April 19 and a vote on the budget is set for April 28.

Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin encouraged residents to come to the workshops and ask questions. As the council begins to look over the budget, he pointed out that the 1.42 percent increase in the grand list means an additional $342,000 in tax revenue that will help offset any budget increase.

“It looks like a budget that reflects the cost of doing business, but [it] will get a lot of scrutiny,” Galvin said.