BEACON FALLS — The Board of Finance approved a new town budget proposal for 2013-14 Tuesday night, after voters rejected a roughly $6.2 million budget at a referendum last week.
The original budget failed by 46 votes, with 327 no votes and 281 yes votes, June 6. In response to the defeat, the finance board backed a second proposal of $6.12 million. The new budget is an increase of $102,559 or 1.7 percent over the current spending plan.
Officials said the current municipal proposal would decrease the mill rate by .3 mills. This does not include expenses for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Region 16’s nearly $38.5 million budget proposal will go to a vote early next week.
Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk had one message for voters after the board had finished with the new proposed budget.
“We lowered taxes,” Huk said.
Although the town budget is increasing, its impact on the mill rate will be a reduction due in part to higher than anticipated funding from the state.
Huk said since the state has passed its budget the town now has real numbers to work with and are receiving approximately 4 percent more than they had originally budgeted.
The board removed about $76,000 from operating expenses in the budget plan, including a $72,000 bond payment for a new fire engine for Beacon Hose Company No. 1.
The board had previously voted to use $300,000 from the sale of the town’s cell tower on Lopus Road to fix the firehouse roof, which is estimated to cost approximately $66,000, and put the rest towards a down payment on the new engine, which is estimated to cost $695,000. The remaining cost would have been bonded.
Beacon Hose’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.
The board decided to pay for the roof out of this year’s budget from the contingency funds.
Officials plan to pay for the new fire engine through a bond. Both the roof project and the truck will have to go to town meetings and residents will have to vote to accept them before the town can move forward on them.
Huk felt removing those two items from the budget and bringing them to residents for a vote will be easier than just forcing them through in the budget.
“We’re giving them an a la carte menu as opposed to prix fixe. Prix fixe is throw it all in the budget. A la carte is choose your truck, choose your roof, choose your budget,” Huk said.
The board also removed $6,000 from the proposed increase to the building inspector’s line item.
Board members said they had received messages from concerned residents over why the inspector’s line item was increasing.
Although they had explained that it was not a raise, but rather he would be working more hours due to state mandates about inspections, board members felt other residents might still be concerned and removed the money as a precaution.
In removing that money they also had to remove an equal amount of revenue the town was expecting to receive from the increased number of inspections.
The board also adjusted figures for the senior tax credit down to $64,000 from approximately $80,000.
A town meeting is set for June 19 to revise the ordinance that governs the tax relief credit. The change will allow eligible senior citizens to receive the full tax credit of $500. As the ordinance stands now, the town can only give a total of $64,000 for the credit.
Huk explained if the revision to the ordinance is approved the will have to raise the mill rate to cover the shortfall.
The budget proposal was sent to the Board of Selectmen for its approval and to schedule a public hearing and a vote on the spending plan.