Officials prepping for hearing

BEACON FALLS — Officials are preparing to bring the municipal budget to a public hearing.

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance will hold a public hearing on the 2016-17 town budget May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.

The Board of Finance is scheduled to meet Wednesday night to adopt a final budget to send to the hearing at the meeting. Officials declined to release the bottom-line figure they were working with as of Tuesday due to the number being in flux at the time.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik and Board of Finance Chairman Joe Rodorigo said uncertainty surrounding the state’s budget has been holding the town’s budget back.

State budget deliberations continue as lawmakers deal with a nearly $1 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year.

“Basically we are certainly hopeful the legislature is going to pass some sort of representative budget that lets us know what the impact is going to be,” Bielik said Monday. “The primary reason we’ve been holding off on putting it out to the public is that we wanted to let dust settle a little so we could know what we could expect as far as other sources of revenue go.”

Although the budget remains fluid, Rodorigo said the town is looking at the possibility of a decrease in its municipal budget.

“We are looking at a potential reduction in town taxes. It really depends on what the state does,” Rodorigo said. “Nothing is cast in stone right now.”

Some of the larger items included in the budget are purchasing a flail mower and two police vehicles, and making upgrades to the firehouse.

The flail mower, which is expected to cost approximately $130,000, will be used to trim the bush along the side of the streets. The town’s current flail mower is from the 1970s and at the end of its life, Rodorigo said.

The two police vehicles will cost about $70,000 in total and will replace two of the police department’s current vehicles, Rodorigo said. The vehicles that will be replaced have approximately 90,000 to 100,000 miles on them and do not have four-wheel drive, which Rodorigo said was important in a town as hilly as Beacon Falls.

Bielik said the upgrades at the firehouse, which are expected to be in excess of $25,000, will focus on renovating and upgrading the restroom facilities.

Bielik said crafting of the budget has been a collaborative effort between the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, with significant input from department heads.

“We worked to maintain or improve the operations we have in town, while balancing that out with maintaining mill rates at a comfortable level for everybody,” Bielik said.

The municipal budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

The $40.53 million school budget, which keeps spending flat, was approved at a district meeting Monday night. The town’s net education cost is about $10.83 million, a decrease of $8.

“Region 16’s flat budget gives us the opportunity to bring in a stabilized tax budget for the people of Beacon Falls,” Bielik said.

Rodorigo echoed Bielik’s comments, saying the region’s budget had a positive impact on the municipal budget.

“Addressing their over taxation through surplus and coming in with a flat budget is a huge step in the right direction. By doing so we have been able to add some long needed increases to street department, fire department, police department, and produce a fiscally-sound and possibly fiscally-reducing budget,” Rodorigo said.