Beacon Falls budget passes by slim margin

Beacon Falls residents line up to cast their vote on the budget on Monday at the firehouse. The $6 million budget passed by a vote of 111 to 92. -LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — By 19 votes, the town approved a $6 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The budget was approved, 111 to 92, by a paper ballot vote during a town meeting Tuesday night.

First Selectman Gerard Smith was thankful that the town came out to vote.

“I’m very proud that the people of Beacon Falls did the right thing,” Smith said.

The budget is an increase of $164,864, or 2.7 percent, over the current budget.

The budget only represents town operating expenses. It does not include next year’s plan for Region 16, which covers Beacon Falls and Prospect. That plan, which has an increase of 1.44 percent, will be voted on Monday at a regional district meeting.

Town officials said they cannot say how this will affect the current tax rate of 26.10 mills, as they are waiting for an approved school plan. However, previous budget documents calculated a proposed tax rate of 30.80 mills, an increase of 4.7 mills.

That number uses this year’s education plan, and the town completed revaluation. Due to revaluation, the town’s 2011 grand list of about $471.5 million decreased by 12.75 percent, according to town documents.

The budget includes a payment towards a 10 year $1.1 million loan. The loan will cover large ticket items, such as the final payments for Blackberry Hill Road, the streetscape project, and items requested by the fire department.

Smith explained since the budget passed, the town would begin work on securing the loan immediately. The loan will have to come before the residents at another town meeting to be voted upon.

“There’s a measure of risk in passing tonight’s budget in advance of the funding. But, if the budget passes tonight, then everybody who supports the budget tonight has to come back here in three months and support that loan,” Selectman Chris Bielik said.

Before the vote, while the residents were discussing the budget, Jeremy Rodrigo asked Smith what would happen if the budget did not pass. Smith explained that, as had happened in the past, the capitol projects would be put off for another year.

Rodorigo told the town that putting some of these items off for another year might mean the difference between life and death.

“I just hope that the cardiac defibrillators that we are asking to replace, that will literally save your life, … I just hope they don’t die within that year. I hope that the ambulance doesn’t die on the way to the hospital,” Rodorigo said.

Former Selectman Len D’Amico told the residents that he felt that a 2.7 percent increase was very good. He said given his former position, he was familiar with how to make a budget and that this board did a very good job crafting this budget.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can continue to put off and put off and put off. This is a very, very good budget,” D’Amico said.

He said if the town continues to put off paying for items, there may be severe consequences.

“I don’t think there is a man or woman in this room tonight that would want to, for the sake of a (2.7 percent) increase in this budget, that they would want to have on their consciences a problem by putting off this budget and not supporting it,” D’Amico said.

Not everybody was in favor of the increase in the budget. Resident Connie Sexton felt that the budget increase was too high.

“I’m tired of being taxed. I had to vote no on the budget,” Sexton said.

Sexton said in some places in New York when a resident’s child graduates from high school, they are no longer asked to pay taxes towards the school budget. She would like the town to look into a system similar to that.

Resident Doreen Fontaine was also worried about how high the taxes are already.

“I think our taxes are high enough. We don’t need increased taxes,” Fontaine said.

She explained that she was a senior on a limited budget and already had enough to pay for without the increase to taxes.

The town will hold a second town meeting to vote on the loan in approximately three months. No definitive date has been set yet.