Voters support Prospect budget

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield discusses the town’s 2016-17 budget as moderator Robert Hiscox looks on during a town meeting April 28. The $8.27 million municipal budget was approved at the meeting. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield discusses the town’s 2016-17 budget as moderator Robert Hiscox looks on during a town meeting April 28. The $8.27 million municipal budget was approved at the meeting. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — Voters last week approved the $8.27 million municipal budget without dissention.

All of the nearly 100 people who turned out for the April 28 town meeting voted in favor of the budget, which increases spending by $474,395, or about 6 percent.

“It was a welcome relief from a lot of the contentious budgets we’ve had,” said Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin following the unanimous vote. “Despite its size, I think people realize that the town is growing and the budget needs to grow along with it.”

Mayor Robert Chatfield said the state of the town is well. The fund balance stands at $1.12 million, which is a first for the town, he said. An increase in the grand list brought in an additional $343,000 in tax revenue, he added.

Chatfield went through each account in the budget explaining increases and decreases with little interruption for questions from those in attendance. Many of the questions that were asked focused on how the town will be using the former Community School.

The town is buying the building from Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, for $873,000. The sale is expected to close in July.

Chatfield explained the building will be used for town civic organizations as well as recreation activities. The Parks and Recreation Department will be moving its office into the building, as well, he said.

The upkeep and maintenance of Community School represents the largest new expense in the budget. The budget earmarks $132,346 for the building, including $25,000 for electricity and $23,000 for maintenance.

The largest budget increases come in public safety.

The fire department budget is increasing $42,560, mostly due to the purchase of new self-contained breathing apparatus air packs, which Chatfield called state of the art. The apparatuses cost $8,000 each. The cost of firefighter training has also gone up, he added.

The police department budget is increasing $65,615. The increase includes about $18,000 more for the town’s share of the resident state trooper program.

The budget puts the town’s share of the program at $162,757. The cost has increased more than $50,000 in the past three years due to the state shifting more of the burden of the cost to the town.

Town officials have had discussions about sharing police services with Naugatuck that would allow the town to break away from the resident state trooper program. Chatfield said the town isn’t ready to move forward with any new plans for the police department.

The budget also includes $20,000 in the assessor’s budget to set aside for the next time the town has to do a revaluation. The library budget is increasing about $22,000, which is mostly due to salary increases.

The town realized a savings of $115,000 in health care by pooling town employees with Region 16’s health care plan. Town employees are still a separate group under the plan, but joining a larger group for health care meant the town’s cost went down.

The municipal budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16.

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 $17.78 million, an increase of $556,800.

The town’s education cost is increasing due to a higher ratio of Prospect students attending Region 16 schools and projected decreases in state and federal revenues.

Town officials are holding off on setting a new mill rate as the state deals with a massive budget deficit. State budget deliberations continued this week.

Galvin said the town knows cuts in state funding are coming. How many there are and how deep they are will determine what the budget’s impact will be on the mill rate, he said.

Galvin said the council is likely to set the new mill rate in late June.