Beacon Falls budget barely passes

0
6

Moderator Mildred Kent, left, and Assistant Registrar Marion Lennon print out the referendum results Tuesday night. The budget passed 305 to 299.

BEACON FALLS — On its second go-around, the Beacon Fall’s town budget passed by the slimmest of margins in a referendum Tuesday.

Voters approved a $5.85 million municipal budget, 305 to 299, for 2011-12 fiscal year. Since the budget passed by only six votes, there may be an automatic recount. As of press time, the recount had not been scheduled.

“Internally, I’m doing cartwheels,” said Board of Finance Chair Chris Bielik in relief after the votes had been tallied at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. “I really believe that this budget represents a basic minimum budget to the town.”

The budget increases town spending by $165,070. Coupled with the Region 16 school budget, which has already passed, the mill rate will increase 0.5 mills, from 25.6 to 26.1.

A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, so a homeowner with property worth $200,000 would pay $100 more in taxes.

The mill increase is down a 0.1 mills from the last budget proposal, which failed at a referendum in early May.

Members of the Boards of Finance and Selectmen, present at the poll as ballots were counted, said they were worried about what would happen if the budget failed.

Any changes they could make to reduce the budget for those who thought it was too high would be offset by previous “yes” votes turning to “no” if the town had to turn to lay-offs and cut essential services, Bielik speculated.

Selectman Dominick Sorrentino said he was glad the vote was history so the board could move on to the next challenge. And there are plenty to occupy his time.

With the budget passed the Board of Selectman has a full plate, from negotiating with unions and insurance companies to figuring out how to come up with the extra money needed for the whole streetscape project, to looking at the long-term feasibility of a new community center on the Wolfe Avenue property, and how to care for neglected parks.

“We’ve got a lot of work still to do,” First Selectman Susan Cable said.

She said she was pleased with the budget results, but wished more people had come out to vote.

Cable also said she hoped to start “Bagels with Cable” again to answer questions from townspeople, take ideas, and work together to better Beacon Falls. Cable said she hoped to clear the air on topics such as the role of the town nurse, which she said is more like a health and human services position, and comparisons between Beacon Fall’s police force to Bethany’s. Cable said the comparison is not fair because Bethany houses State Troop I.

The biggest increases in the budget come from contractual benefits to town employees, including pensions, medial insurance and worker’s compensation.

Board of Finance Chair Chris Bielik, left, and Board of Finance member Wendy Hopkinson, right, await referendum results on the budget they put together.

Town officials were able to nudge down the budget increase from their first proposal through a combination of cuts and increases in revenue from the state.

They reduced line items for trash collection by $2,000, part-time police raises by $8,256, to a $20,000 increase. Part-time police will receive a $2 raise, but will still make significantly less than police in nearby towns.

The boards also reduced a bulky waste transfer increase by $9,000 putting the increase to $5,500 in order to open the transfer station a few times per year. It was closed for most of the past year because there were no funds for it in the budget.

On the revenue side, the town expects to receive a new $59,379 grant from the state.