Beacon Falls budget heading to hearing

BEACON FALLS — Officials will present a $6.82 million town budget at a public hearing next week.

The Board of Finance last week approved the 2017-18 municipal budget proposal, which is an increase of $522,326, or 7.9 percent, over this fiscal year’s municipal budget.

The public hearing on the budget is May 24 starting at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School.

Following the hearing, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance will hold a joint special meeting to discuss and vote on the budget. Ultimately, the voters will vote on the budget.

The town budget doesn’t include the spending for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Early this month, voters in the region approved a $40.9 million school budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year that increases education spending by $404,934, or about 1 percent, over this year’s school budget.

Overall, the town’s mill rate is set to increase 3.8 mills to 36.7 mills. Under a 36.7 mill rate, a taxpayer with property assessed at $150,000 would pay $5,505 in taxes, an increase of $570. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The jump in the mill rate is due to a combination of a loss of revenue and an increase in spending.

The town underwent a property revaluation last year. The state requires municipalities to perform property revaluations every five years to assess the current market value of properties for tax purposes.

Due to the revaluation, the town’s 2016 net grand list decreased $25.1 million, or 5.12 percent, to $464.4 million. A municipality’s grand list is a tabulation of the assessed values of real estate, personal property and motor vehicles.

Out of the 3.8 mill increase, 1.9 mills is to make up for the drop in the grand list to maintain the status quo in tax revenue, Board of Finance Chairman Joe Rodorigo said.

The town is also preparing for a cut in state revenue.

The state is facing a significant deficit, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed cutting funding to towns. The state legislature has yet to approve its two-year budget.

In its proposed budget, the town is planning for a loss of $125,500 in the education grants it receives from the state.

On the spending side, the bulk of the increase in the municipal budget comes from new debt payments, which total about $423,000, to pay off a $3.4 million bond taken out in the 2015-16 fiscal year to pay for capital items, including road improvements and a new fire truck.

The town’s net education cost for Region 16’s budget is about $11.15 million, an increase of $313,383 or 2.89 percent. This is based on revenue projections under Malloy’s proposed two-year state budget.

Out of the proposed 3.8 mill increase, Rodorigo said, 3.6 mills are due to circumstances the finance board has little to no control over.

Rodorigo pointed out that the board also had to deal with other increases, such as contractual wage increases. He said the town made significant cuts in order to keep the rest of the budget at a 0.2 mill increase.

Rodorigo said the most significant cut was $25,000 to the contingency budget, bringing it to $75,000. The budget plans for nothing much to go wrong during the year, he said.

“We are putting out a very optimistic budget,” Rodorigo said.

The finance board also didn’t fund some of the requests department heads put forward.

One of these was a proposal from former Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Fire Chief Jim Trzaski, who was chief at the time the company’s budget request was presented. Trzaski requested a $20,000 stipend for the fire chief position and funds to reimburse members of the volunteer company for responding to calls.

Rodorigo said the board has been very open and transparent in crafting its budget and he supports the budget as it stands.

“We put together the best budget we could facing the circumstances we are currently facing. We made many difficult choices. It is now up to the taxpayers,” Rodorigo said.