Vote on tap for Beacon Falls budget

Spending plan has larger impact on Chatfield Farms residents

BEACON FALLS — Residents of Chatfield Farms came to speak out against a budget which disproportionately affects them at a hearing May 24 at Woodland Regional High School.

The proposed 2017-18 $6.8 million municipal budget increases spending $537,826, or 8.6 percent. The mill rate, though, is likely to increase by 9.4 percent from 32.9 mills to 36 mills due to an increase in spending and a recent revaluation of taxable property.

A town meeting to vote on the budget is scheduled on Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. According to officials, an effort is underway to force the vote to a referendum. If successful, the referendum is likely to be June 8.

When the grand list of taxable property was updated last year, the total value of property in town fell over 5 percent. That adjustment accounts for 1.9 mills of the mill increase in taxes. A mill is worth $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

For most town residents, whose property values went down, that 1.9 mill adjustment won’t affect taxes. However, for the 120 or so property owners at Chatfield Farms, property values went up. Residents said they’re facing increases of $3,000 to $4,000 under the proposed budget.

The residents of Chatfield Farms are mostly retirees who don’t have children in the school system. The private community also doesn’t receive town services like trash pick-up and plowing.

“We’re in a quagmire here,” Chatfield Farms resident Jim Brusitis said.

He said he paid less in taxes on his 5,000-square-foot home in Oxford on three acres than he will next year on his 2,000-square-foot home with no land in Beacon Falls.

He said he downsized two years ago to save money now that he’s on a fixed income.

The Board of Finance has no ability to change large portions of the budget, including a $300,000 increase in contractual obligations and a $400,000 increase in bond payments to pay for a roads and vehicle package approved a year and a half ago. The approved Region 16 budget will add 0.7 mills to Beacon Falls’ tax rate, according to officials.

The 2017-18 budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is $40.9 million, an increase of $404,934, or 1 percent, over this year’s school budget. The net education cost — the share of the education expenses that aren’t covered by other revenues, like state aid, and are paid through local taxes — for Beacon Falls is about $11.15 million, an increase of $313,383, or 2.89 percent. This is based on projections that Beacon Falls will lose state education aid in the coming fiscal year.

Taxpayers said they wanted to see the town go after back taxes, and a suggestion to cut funding for a mini bus and a town nurse drew a smattering of applause from the audience of about 50.

“We are the ones who are floating the people who are not paying their taxes,” said Ted Goodman of Fieldstone Lane. “We should know who the people are, who the companies are in this town that are not keeping up with their responsibility and putting the burden on our shoulders.”

Over the past few years, the tax collector has reduced the amount of overdue taxes from $3.8 million to $1.6 million, according to Board of Finance Chairman Joe Rodorigo. He said collection of back taxes is already included in the budget, which projects a 98 percent payment rate on current taxes.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.