Officials send budget to hearing

BEACON FALLS — Town officials have approved a 2014-15 budget proposal to send to a public hearing later this month.

The proposed 2014-15 municipal budget is $6.21 million, which is an increase of approximately $33,000 or 0.54 percent over current spending.

The budget will head to a public hearing at 7 p.m. on April 29. It is scheduled to be held at Laurel Ledge Elementary School, 30 Highland Ave.

According to budget documents, some of the largest increases come under employee benefits. Workers’ compensation insurance is set to increase $33,000 to $150,000, Social Security will go up about $25,000 to $157,000, and pension costs are going up nearly $17,000 to $342,500.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said officials were able to help offset some of the costs by carefully going over each line and seeing what could be cut.

 “The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance put a lot of effort into identifying the necessary operating costs and breaking out from how we’ve done things in past,” Bielik said.

Officials were able to cut from some areas. The largest cut, nearly $50,000, comes under emergency services. The cuts include $10,400 from vehicle fuel for the fire department, $10,000 from the physicals and inoculations line item from the fire department and $7,000 in building maintenance for the firehouse.

The budget also includes a $19,000 cut in the police wages. This reduction comes from a senior officer retiring and being replaced by a new patrolman, Bielik explained during an earlier budget meeting.

The town’s revenues have also increased. Tax collections are up $73,000 in current taxes and approximately $188,000 in back taxes.

Bielik said these numbers are on the conservative side, and he expects more revenue than the town is planning for will come in.

The boards also looked over the operating items of each department to see if anything could be moved into the capital projects portion of the budget.

Bielik said this allowed the capital projects budget to be broken out in such a way that they are more transparent to everybody.

“It is leaner than it was in past, but funds operating needs of the town,” Bielik said.

Board of Finance Chairman Joe Dowdell said in an email he believes the proposal is a good one.

“Coming in at less than 1 percent increase should show how hard the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen worked on it,” Dowdell said.

The town budget does not include education spending for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls. The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $39.7 million budget for the coming school year.

Copies of the proposed budget are available for review in the town clerk’s office. Budget information can also be found on the town website.