Beacon Falls budget heading to vote

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Proposal increases spending, cuts tax rate

BEACON FALLS — The town’s 2021-22 municipal budget proposal increases spending and funds a substantial list of capital projects, but cuts the tax rate by a full mill.

The Board of Finance on May 19 approved a $7.95 million municipal operating budget and nearly $900,000 worth of capital projects after a quick and lightly attended hearing at the Beacon Falls Senior Center.

The spending plan will go to a public vote at a town meeting June 2 at 7 p.m. at the senior center, 57 North Main St.

The $7.95 million operating budget proposal is an increase of $473,596, or about 6.3%, from this fiscal year.

The proposal includes contractual increases, like 2.5% raises for town employees and a 5% jump in the cost of medical benefits.

The spending plan also raises the first selectman salary from $55,000 to $62,000, and the salaries for the treasurer, selectmen and registrars of voters positions from $250 to $13,750. The proposed salaries for elected officials are prorated in the budget and won’t take effect until after the November election.

The budget proposal allocates $897,204 from the town’s unassigned fund balance, or surplus, for capital projects. This is the most the town has designated from surplus for capital projects in a year, according to officials.

The capital projects include $211,300 for new a fund dedicated to pay for replacing town vehicles.

“All the departments in town have expensive vehicles we need to replace,” said Finance Manager Natasha Nau, noting the new fund is designed to plan for the future and avoid fluctuations in the budget when the town needs to buy an expensive vehicle.

The proposed capital projects also include $165,000 for a payment to replace a fire engine with a pumper truck and a tanker truck, $100,000 to pay for a property revaluation, $77,000 for an excavator and $50,806 to help pay to replace the roof at Town Hall.

The proposal also uses $246,500 from the fund balance as revenue to balance the budget. There is about $3.7 million in the unassigned fund balance after a couple of strong financial years for the town.

The municipal budget doesn’t include the $40.9 million 2021-22 school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. The school budget decreased Beacon Falls’ net education cost about $622,000 to about $10.2 million.

Nau said the decrease in the town’s education expenses helped accommodate the capital projects.

The town’s total proposed budget is about $23.4 million, which is an increase of about $771,500, or 3.4%, from this fiscal year. Officials anticipate revenues will offset the increase, plus some. Based on estimated revenues, the budget proposal cuts the tax rate 1 mill to 34.9 mills in 2021-22.

The tax rate is the amount of taxes payable on the assessed value of property. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Under a 34.9 tax rate, property taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 are $3,490.

“I think it’s a very fair, honest budget to the taxpayers,” Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Pratt said. “I think that they’ll find that the infrastructure is being serviced like it should be, the mill rate’s going down.”

Due to the town’s strong financial position, First Selectmen Gerard Smith said the budget proposal tackles capital projects that have been put off and moves the town forward, while lowering the tax rate. He added he looks forward to the public’s support to approve the budget.

“I think it’s a fiscally responsible budget to move the town forward,” he said. “It funds capital projects that we have in place and some long-neglected ones.”