Beacon Falls budget fails at referendum

0
13

Beacon Falls Registrar of Voters Helen Mis, left, and Kathy Grace count votes from a budget referendum Thursday night in Laurel Ledge Elementary School. Voters rejected the proposed $6.2 million town budget by 46 votes. –LUKE MARSHALL
Beacon Falls Registrar of Voters Helen Mis, left, and Kathy Grace count votes from a budget referendum Thursday night in Laurel Ledge Elementary School. Voters rejected the proposed $6.2 million town budget by 46 votes. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Town officials will be heading back to the drawing board after voters rejected the proposed municipal budget.

The roughly $6.2 million budget failed by 46 votes, with 327 no votes and 281 yes votes, at a referendum Thursday.

The spending plan represented an increase of $180,612, or 3 percent, over the current budget. This would have caused the mill rate to go up by approximately 0.1 mills.

These numbers do not include expenses for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The school board approved a third budget proposal of $38.5 million Wednesday night.

“It’s unfortunate. Now we have to go back and start all over again,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said about the town budget after the results were announced at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

The Board of Finance is scheduled to discuss the budget during its meeting on Tuesday.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk said further cuts will be deep and the board will be careful as it reviews the budget.

“These are deeper cuts that come closer to the bone, so we need to be cautious,” Huk said.

Huk said throughout the budget process he only received minimal negative feedback from residents. He hopes the residents who voted against the budget will turn out at the meeting and help the board understand why the budget was voted down.

“I would love to hear from people because we are going back to drawing board on Tuesday,” Huk said.

Huk said residents who voted against the budget could also email him at JHuk@townofbeaconfalls.com.

Huk was concerned that one of the reasons the budget was rejected was due to a misunderstanding.

“I think people confused the issue around the senior tax credit with the budget and they don’t understand that the budget has nothing to do with that,” Huk said.

Town officials are looking into an ordinance change that would allow seniors to maintain the full $500 tax credit they currently are eligible to receive under certain guidelines.

Huk explained the credit is an ordinance that can only be changed by a vote on that ordinance. Whether the budget passes has no affect on that ordinance.

Rejection of the budget means the town will have to issue supplemental tax bills.

“It’s going to have a big affect on us for the tax bill season, just getting the tax bills out. We’re going to have no alternative but to issue supplemental tax bills,” Smith said.

This means residents will receive a tax bill at the current mill rate and then another bill once the budget passes to make up the difference in the mill rate.

The largest budget increase came in the form of a $72,000 payment on a bond package towards the purchase of a new fire engine.  

The Board of Finance voted to use $300,000 from the sale of the town’s cell tower to fix the firehouse roof, which is expected to cost approximately $100,000, and put the rest towards a down payment on the new engine, which is estimated to cost $695,000. The remaining cost will be bonded. 

Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s current fire engine is 25 years old and in need of repairs. The engine the town is seeking to buy is both a 500-gallon pumper and a ladder truck, which the firehouse does not currently have.  

The budget proposal also includes an increase of $11,000 to the building inspector line item. Officials explained this was not a raise for the inspector, but rather the inspector will be working more hours due changes in state law that require more inspections.

Other expenses in the budget include an $11,000 study on the proposed new media center on Wolfe Avenue and $22,000 for new police radios so digital bands that the state has begun switching over to can be picked up.