BY ANDREAS YILMA
BEACON FALLS — The town’s 2023-24 municipal budget proposal increases spending and funds for several capital projects with an expected increase in the tax rate by close to 1.5 mills.
The Board of Finance approved on April 27 an $8.8 million municipal operating budget and about $491,000 worth of capital projects after a fairly quick and lightly attended hearing at the Beacon Falls Senior Center.
The spending plan will go to a vote at a town meeting May 11 at 7 p.m. at the senior center, 57 North Main St.
The $8.8 million operating budget is an increase of $374,199, or about 3.26%, from this fiscal year.
The capital projects include $196,204 for the capital budget and $294,810 from the roughly two-year old vehicle replacement fund, a total of $491,000 for capital projects.
The proposal includes contractual increases, including 2.75% raises for town employees and roughly $100,000 for employee benefits.
The spending plan has other increases which include roughly $33,000 for gas, diesel, oil, electricity and telephone, a jump of $15,975 due to a move from in-house animal control services to a regional, third party contract an increase of $25,000 for an addition of an economic development commission consultant.
“Everybody knows that all of the costs are going up this year. I’m sure you’re looking at your bills at home and electricity is going up, fuel is going up,” Town Finance Manager Natasha Nau said. “All of this inflationary increase, the town is seeing the Manager Natasha Nau said. “All of this inflationary increase, the town is seeing the same thing that residents are seeing.”
Town officials were projected to spend about $363,000 for trash and recycling for the current fiscal year. In the upcoming fiscal year, trash was expected to be at $336,000 and recycling at $140,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.
The proposed capital projects include $162,258 for year two of a five-year lease for a fire engine and tanker; $110,000 for public works project for the Pent Road recreational complex park replacement; and $46,000 for the replacement of a 2004 wastewater treatment plant service truck.
The proposal uses about $196,204 from the fund balance for capital projects. The projected undesignated fund balance as of the end of the current fiscal year is $3.5 million.
The municipal budget doesn’t include the $43 million 2023-24 school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect.
The school budget increased Beacon Falls’ net education cost by about $320,000 to about $14.9 million.
The town’s total proposed budget is about $24.3 million, which is an increase of about $750,000 from this fiscal year. The budget proposal increases the tax rate by 1.25 mill to 29.56 mills in 2023-24.
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 29.56 tax rate, property taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 are $2,956.
First Selectman Gerard Smith said he’s proud of the budget the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen worked on to bring forward to town residents as expenses have gone up.
“We spent a lot of time and energy on a lot of the items that were in there,” Smith said. “We put a freeze on spending so we can keep it as low as we could.”
Board of Finance Chairman James Carroll said town officials spent long hours across about half a dozen budget workshops. Other towns are going up in their mill rates substantially more, he added.
“The town budget is only going up a very small percentage,” Carroll said. “The overall mill rate is going up 1.25 mills in a year that everybody’s prices are going up.”