Letter: Finance chairman clarifies budget

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letters_flatTo the editor,

After receiving feedback from many citizens about their reasons for voting “No” on the last budget proposal, I’d like to clarify some items.

A budget is comprised of two parts: expense and revenue, and an increase in expenses does not necessarily translate into an equivalent increase in taxes. In our new budget, departmental expenses have been cut by .81 percent, and total expenses increase by only 1.7 percent, largely due to increases in our debt obligation that we must honor. However, due to further cuts we made in our last meeting and using the most current information on state grants and town tax collection, the operating budget’s impact to the mill rate is a decrease of .3 mills. This means we have effectively cut taxes.

The total requested by departments in the first budget presented to the Board of Finance was $5,786,856. That number has been reduced to $5,528,603, representing $258,253 in cuts.

The Board of Finance has no control over the senior tax credit and it is not part of the budget. We are simply provided the number from the assessor. As of today, the total tax credit is $64,000, and we have changed this in our worksheets accordingly. That said, should the ordinance be changed, this budget will still represent a decrease in the mill rate.

By contrast, the Prospect budget that just passed, after being rejected twice before, represented an increase in expenses of 4.3 percent.

What I can promise is that the Board of Finance will continue to work with the Board of Selectmen to reduce overall costs throughout this fiscal year. We look forward to a new software system being installed to provide greater visibility into our financial position and have just approved an engagement with a new auditor with an outstanding reputation. Cost reduction will be a key topic throughout the year.

A failure to pass this budget will likely lead to: 1) a delay in the delivery of tax bills which will complicate the escrow collection for most mortgage companies, possibly leading to separate tax payments by homeowners and 2) additional cost to hold yet another town meeting, which is counterproductive to the goal of trying to reduce expenses.

No single budget can please all. Everyone has a line or two they would like to have changed, but if we change one to make that group happy another becomes upset. When deciding on how to vote, I simply ask everyone to look at the entire document, not just your line of choice. If citizens are concerned about their taxes, I don’t know of many towns that have been able to decrease their burden. Voting yes for the current budget will do just that.

Please feel free to send any questions to my email address jhuk@townofbeaconfalls.com. The feedback I have gotten has been a great help in progressing this budget process.

Sincerely,

Jim Huk

Chairman, Board of Finance

Beacon Falls