Beacon Falls budget narrowly fails at town meeting

BEACON FALLS — Voters rejected the town’s 2018-19 budget proposal by four votes Monday night at a town meeting.

In total, voters were asked to approve a $7.15 million plan that included a roughly $6.84 million operating budget, which would have increased spending by $96,090 over the current budget, and $308,600 for a list of capital projects. The budget was rejected with 50 “no” votes to 46 “yes” votes.

Board of Finance Chairman Marc Bronn said he was a little disappointed in the outcome of the vote.

“I thought [the budget] was responsible, maintains the same level of service,” said Bronn, adding officials had to contend with contractual increases, which are out of their control.

Bronn said the board will review the budget for any possible changes and send it back out to another vote.

A meeting has yet to be scheduled to discuss the next step for the budget.

More than half of town spending — about $3.5 million — is for employee salaries and benefits, and wages are going up 2.5 percent per contractual salary increases.

The budget proposal also included a $12,000 stipend for the fire chief position at Beacon Hose Company No. 1. The stipend would be a first for the town, which has never paid the chief of the volunteer company.

The town budget doesn’t include education spending for the Region 16 school district, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. The proposed school budget is set to be voted on in May.

Based on projections, town officials estimated the overall impact of the budget would have increased the mill rate by 0.3 mills to 36.2 mills. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

The capital expenditures are paid for out of the town’s unassigned fund balance and don’t impact the mill rate. The capital projects proposal included $49,000 for a new chief/command vehicle for Beacon Hose, $44,000 for a Ford Explorer for the police department, $35,000 to replace portable radios at Beacon Hose, $20,000 for phone system upgrades, and $20,000 to replace guardrails in town as part of a 10-year plan. Officials anticipate getting reimbursed $30,000 by the state for some of the expenditures.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said he was surprised the budget proposal was rejected. He said throughout the budget process officials didn’t receive any feedback that indicated the approach they were taking with the budget wasn’t a solid one. He said officials will reconvene to discuss their options.

“For this to happen the way that it did tonight, to me, is shocking, and I am still convinced that this is an extremely responsible, extremely lean budget,” said Bielik after Monday night’s vote.