After a record-setting winter, the calendar finally has reached spring, which also means budget season has also arrived. The First Selectman’s draft budget was presented and reviewed by the Board of Selectman at our March meeting, and our joint review with the Board of Finance will begin soon.
While the town addressed several notable capital projects in this year’s budget, which were financed as discussed at last year’s public hearing, we face similar requirements both in the immediate and near future. I urge every resident to stop by Town Hall and obtain a copy of the initial budget, and to attend our joint budget meetings prior to this year’s public hearing which will occur some time in April. We need to hear what you, the residents of Beacon Falls have to say.
One significant point of disagreement I have with this initial proposal is the First Selectman’s request for a substantial increase in compensation for this office, which would not take effect until after the results of this November’s municipal elections. This position currently earns a bit over $34,000 annually, with no benefits. His proposal would increase the pay and benefits package to around $80,000 annually (pro rated from mid-November through June 2014, taking full effect in July), an increase of over 135 percent. While I recognize we have the lowest rate of compensation for any leading municipal official in the area, and that there has been no increase in any elected official’s pay for some time, I question both the timing and especially the size of thus proposed raise.
Although there are encouraging signs nationally that the economy is slowly picking up, the effect locally is even slower. Asking our residents for an extra $46,000 for the First Selectman’s office seems, in a word, excessive, especially given the arbitrary way by which this figure was arrived at. I would trust the Board of Finance to employ a much more rigorous statistical evaluative process to arrive at a reasonable starting point for discussion, and I am ready to lead that discussion. In my view, the present figure proposed by the First Selectman fails to represent such a starting point.
Again, I encourage every member of our community to weigh in on your thoughts on this and all the issues affecting our budget process, and not only for the 2013-14 year. I hope to see you all at the upcoming meetings.