Beacon Falls finance board adjusts budget proposal

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

BEACON FALLS — A week after approving a town budget proposal for the 2021-22 fiscal year, the Board of Finance altered the spending plan further.

The largest change was a net reduction of $500,000 in capital projects.

The board on May 11 removed $450,000 for work and upgrades at the public works garage and transfer station on Lopus Road officials have said are needed to renew the permit with the state in a couple years.

The board cut $100,000 for a new storage garage for equipment at the Pent Road Recreation Center. This project is planned with the work at the transfer station. Also, officials took out $96,300 for a couple utility vehicles.

The Board of Selectmen recommended removing the capital projects at its May 10 meeting.

First Selectmen Gerard Smith said after some reflection he thinks spending on capital projects needs to be scaled back a bit. Regarding the transfer station project, he said he spoke with SLR, the firm the town hires for engineering services, and doing any work before applying to renew the permit could complicate the application. He suggested officials wait until the town is ready to do the large-sale project and has more solid cost estimates.

The finance board approved the changes May 11, according to meeting minutes. Chairman Thomas Pratt could not be reached for comment.

The finance board also added $96,300 to new a fund dedicated to pay for replacing town vehicles, including fire apparatus, bringing the total to $211,300.

The latest budget proposal allocates $897,204 from the town’s unassigned fund balance, or surplus, for capital projects. The list of projects includes $165,000 for a payment to replace a fire engine with a pumper truck and a tanker truck.

The revised proposal also uses $246,500 from the fund balance as revenue to balance the budget.

The changes were made after a few officials expressed concerns at a budget workshop May 4 that the budget proposal uses too much from the fund balance at one time. The revised spending plan uses about $1.14 million from the fund balance. The previous proposal used about $1.4 million. There is about $3.7 million in the unassigned fund balance.

A minor change was made to the proposed $7.9 million town operating budget, which doesn’t include the capital projects.

Officials opted to give the two registrars of voters positions raises equal to what is proposed for the treasurer and two selectmen positions. The proposal increases the salaries for these elected positions $250 to $13,750. The previous proposal kept the registrars’ salaries at $13,500, but included paying them an additional $22 an hour for working elections and primaries.

The budget proposal also includes raising the first selectman salary from $55,000 to $62,000. The proposed new salaries for elected officials are prorated in the budget and won’t take effect until after the November election.

The municipal budget doesn’t include the school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters in the region have approved a $40.9 million 2021-22 school budget that decreased Beacon Falls’ net education cost $622,234 to about $10.2 million.

In total, the town’s proposed budget is about $23.4 million, which is an increase of about $771,500 from this fiscal year. Officials anticipate revenues, including the $246,500 from the fund balance, will offset the increase, plus some. Based on estimated revenues, the budget proposal projects the tax rate will decrease 1 mill to 34.90 mills in 2021-22.

Officials last week changed the date for the town meeting to vote on the budget. The meeting is now set for June 2 at 7 p.m. at the senior center, 57 North Main St. A hearing on the budget is set for May 19.

Andreas Yilma contributed to this report.