Hearing on Beacon Falls budget tonight

BFTownHall2
BEACON FALLS — Residents can attend a hearing tonight on a proposed $6.3 million town budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that would increase spending by 4.3 percent.

The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the firehouse, 35 North Main St. A special Board of Finance meeting will follow the hearing.

The spending plan is an increase of $259,591 over this year’s $6 million plan.

That only includes municipal expenses, and not expenses for Region 16, which oversees Beacon Falls and Prospect schools. A revised school budget of about $38.6 million will go to a district meeting May 29 for a paper ballot vote after a failed referendum May 7.

According to town budget documents, the current tax rate of 31.1 mills would increase by 1.4 mills to 32.5 mills, based on the town’s budget proposal and the rejected school plan. The municipal budget proposal will increase the mill rate 0.1 alone, according to the documents.

A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Major cost-driving factors in the town plan are largely in debt service and special projects, said Jim Huk, finance board chairman. He noted that the year-over-year increase for special projects is significant because last year’s projects were paid for through a loan approved by voters outside of the budget.

Under next year’s plan for special projects, there are several items ranging from a $10,000 public works plow to $22,000 for police radios.

Beacon Hose Company No. 1 asked for a new engine at $695,000 and a roof replacement at the fire house at $100,000.

Jeremy Rodorigo, Beacon Hose spokesman, said a 1989 engine needs to be replaced, and the department has been without a ladder truck for about 10 years. The new apparatus would be two trucks in one, he said. Rodorigo said the roof has had leaking issues.
Huk said the budget proposal has $72,000 in debt service to act as an interest payment on the engine, should it be approved by residents.

Of the money being brought in from the general fund, $100,000 would pay for the roof, he said.

First Selectman Gerard Smith said he and Building Inspector Doug Colter have negotiated with contractors for a new roof price of $80,000.

Huk said if there is any excess, the money would be applied to the down payment on the engine.

Under the plan, there also is a proposed bond issue in debt service. Smith said that would refinance the town’s outstanding debt and the note that residents approved to finance 15 special projects for 2012-13.

He said town officials hope that bond issue also would include the truck and money needed to cover $375,000 in overruns for the Depot Street Bridge rehabilitation project.

The truck and overruns would require separate public votes, Smith said.

The finance board recommended including a $15,000 raise without benefits to the first selectman position, an elected position, and 2 percent raises to other elected officials. The raises will take effect after the November elections.

The budget, once finished, will go to referendum after a petition has been filed by former First Selectman Susan Ann Cable. More than 220 signatures have been certified, Town Clerk Leonard Greene Sr. said.

Cable said she originally had approached the boards of Selectmen and Finance about taking the budget to referendum because these are hard economic times.

“It gives more people the opportunity to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’” Cable said.