BEACON FALLS — Voters last week unanimously approved a town budget that, when coupled with school expenses, will lower the mill rate.
The roughly $6.8 million 2016-17 municipal budget was approved, 24-0, May 26 at a town meeting.
Although the budget’s bottom lime shows a much higher increase over last year, the operating budget is roughly $6.37 million, a spending increase of $222,721, or 3.6 percent increase, over the current fiscal year.
The discrepancy is due to a change in accounting methods from last year to this year, Board of Finance Chairman Joe Rodorigo said.
The town budget previously did not show $188,000 in Town Road Aid, but the expense used to improve roads is canceled by a state grant. It also did not show $252,150 in capital improvement projects that will be paid for through surplus from previous budgets and other sources. Although the expenses add to the bottom line, they will not affect taxes.
The town budget doesn’t include education spending for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The region’s $40.53 million 2016-17 budget was approved at a district meeting early in May. Beacon Falls’ net education cost — the amount paid by local taxpayers — is roughly $10.83 million, a decrease of $8.
With the town and school budgets combined, the effect on the town’s mill rate is a decrease of 0.5 mills, bringing it 32.9 mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Under a 32.9 mill rate, a home assessed at $150,000 will pay $4,935 in taxes, a decrease of $75.
First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the town budget provides the necessary services, while decreasing the mill rate.
“I think it’s an excellent budget. I think it provides a great deal of service with significant fiscal restraint. I think the town should be pleased at what we’ve been able to accomplish here these past three years. This just continues the trend we’ve been on. I am grateful for the work everybody put in to make it happen and I am grateful for everybody coming out tonight to vote,” Bielik said.
The spending increases in the budget were driven by the increases in salaries, including a $5,000 increase in the first selectman salary, a $4,500 increase in the treasurer’s salary, and an increase of $1,715 for each of the two selectman.
The raises were approved as part of the 2015-16 budget in order to bring the town more in line with salaries in similar-sized municipalities in the area.
The spending increases were offset by increases in revenues and savings in other areas.
A 2 percent increase in the grand list will bring in about $300,000 in additional revenue.
Town employees recently joined Region 16’s medical insurance plan, Bielik said, saving the town somewhere around $14,000 next year.
He said the town is now set up to buy fuel in bulk. That, combined with low fuel prices, has meant a significant savings in energy costs, he said.
The price went down for phosphorous and nitrogen credits at the waste water treatment plant, resulting in another savings, Bielik said. He said the town was also able to lower the budget for snow removal after the mild winter last year.
Rodorigo was pleased with the support voters gave to the budget.
“I am thankful for the people who came out and voted in favor on the budget. I think the number of people speaks to the positive aspect of the budget. This is an unprecedented budget for the town of Beacon Falls in that it reduced taxes. That is a good thing and it is a positive step in the right direction,” Rodorigo said.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.