Beacon Falls ‘surprisingly’ approves budget after revisions

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By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

BEACON FALLS — Town residents voted 143-108 in favor of a $9 million municipal budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year after they had rejected the original $9.6 million proposal.

Shortly after the vote, the Board of Selectmen approved a tax rate of 28.31 mills, down from 34.90 mills. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Selectmen and Board of Finance cut $638,520 from the budget after residents voted 184-32 against the original proposal May 25.

Town officials held the second referendum Tuesday at Beacon Falls Senior Center.

“I was pleasantly surprised it actually passed, but more surprised at the amount of people who voted no – just wondering where we could’ve cut anything and still kept the services to the town,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith. Contributed

The new budget contains $8.5 million for operating expenses and $476,942 for capital projects.

“This time there was no indication the vote would’ve been so close, especially since we made such deep cuts the first time,” Smith said. “There was not much more to go. If it failed, the only place to go would’ve been affecting services.”

The municipal budget doesn’t include the school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters from both towns previously approved a $41.7 million package. Beacon Falls’ net education spending will be $14.6 million, up about $519,000, or 3.7%, due to a larger enrollment next school year.

The total budget for next fiscal year is about $23.6 million.

The latest cuts include $41,000 for an economic development consultant, $30,000 for part-time police patrol expenses, $90,000 for a new assistant public works director, $25,000 for pavement maintenance and $14,570 for wastewater treatment operations.

The town’s unassigned fund balance, or surplus, has fallen from 4% to 2% above the town’s minimum threshold. Town officials project to have $388,175 available above the 12% minimum threshold of $2.8 million. Officials are using fund balance to reduce the tax burden for residents, Finance Manager Natasha Nau said.

“The people have spoken and I have to run the town with the money they have allotted me,” she said, “but I’ll continue to move the town in a direction where we can see progress and keep the town going in the right direction.”