Budget almost ready for hearing

PROSPECT — The Town Council is getting ready to bring its budget proposal to the public.

A public hearing on the 2016-17 municipal budget is set for April 19 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

In the beginning of March, Mayor Robert Chatfield presented a proposed $8.2 million 2016-17 municipal budget, which represents an increase of $466,326 over the current budget. The council has been fine-tuning the proposal over a series of workshops and as of Tuesday had adopted $6.6 million of the budget. The council is scheduled to hold a workshop Wednesday at 6 p.m. before sending the budget to the hearing.

The completed budget proposal will be available at the public hearing.

One of the largest proposed increases in the budget is for the volunteer fire department. The fire department budget is slated to increase $43,000 to $388,110.

Chatfield said the increase is primarily due to the purchase of the self-contained breathing apparatuses the department uses. Each apparatus costs $8,000, he said.

The town is also expected to see an increase of approximately $18,000 to the resident state trooper program budget.

The cost of the program, which is currently proposed at $162,757, has increased more than $50,000 in the past three years due to the state shifting the burden of the cost to the town.

The cost of running and maintaining Community School, which residents voted in favor of purchasing last month, will also factor into the town’s 2016-17 budget. The budget sets aside $137,346 for the school, including $25,000 for electricity, $21,480 to heat the building, and $23,078 for building maintenance.

Chatfield said the school is listed as its own line item in the 2016-17 proposed budget so the town can get a handle on how much it costs to operate it. The school will be folded into the town buildings line item in the following budget.

The municipal budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls. The school budget proposal is flat at $40.53 million.

Although the proposed school budget doesn’t increase spending, it will have an impact on Prospect. The town’s net education cost is projected at $17.75 million, or nearly $530,000 more, an increase of about 3 percent, under the proposal.

The increase is due to a combination of factors, including a shift in student population and projected decreases in state and federal revenues.

The net education cost is divided between the two towns based on the student population ratio. The ratio of Prospect students has increased from about 60.2 percent to about 60.8 percent. This shifts more of the tax burden onto Prospect taxpayers.

Chatfield said the town won’t know exactly what the affect will be until the state revenues for education come through, but he is bracing for an increase.

“It won’t be a flat Region 16 budget because of change in student population,” Chatfield said.

An increase in the budget will be offset by the $343,000 increase the town realized in its 2015 grand list, Chatfield said.

As the town prepares to finalize its budget, Chatfield said he’s being careful with residents’ money, but it costs a certain amount to run a town.

“I’m just as frugal as I’ve always been,” Chatfield said. “It takes X number of dollars to run town of Prospect in the way people have been receiving and are expecting.”