Beacon Falls taking time with budget

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BFTownHall2BEACON FALLS — As the budget season wears on so to have the workshops.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk said the budget process is proceeding as it should be under the circumstances.

However, First Selectman Gerard Smith felt the process is not coming along well, calling it “painstakingly slow.”

“There seems to be a new process to attacking the budget and it doesn’t seem to be working at all,” Smith said.

Smith pointed out that the Board of Selectmen forwarded the budget to the Board of Finance for approval on March 11.

Last year the public hearing for the current budget was held on April 10 and the vote was taken at a town meeting on May 1. No public hearing has been scheduled yet for the coming fiscal year’s budget.

“As of April 29 we have nothing but lengthy workshops and no consensus,” Smith said.

Huk acknowledged the fact the workshops have been lengthy, with the previous two ending after 11 p.m., but feels that it is important to make sure the budget is the best it can be moving forward.

“All of us on the Board of Finance wanted to take the time necessary to review the line items and come to a budget that works not only for this fiscal year but acknowledges known costs in the next two to four year time span, which requires in depth discussions not only around the operating budget and capital requests but also how best to finance them,” Huk said in an email.

Officials have not released a bottom-line number for the budget they are working on yet.

During a budget workshop April 23, the finance board went through the budget line-by-line to make changes.

One of the changes made was to a proposal regarding the salary for the position of first selectman.

Smith had originally proposed raising the salary from $34, 200 to $68,400 and adding benefits to the position in order to make the position full-time. This change would have taken place after the elections in November. However, after outcry from the public, Smith withdrew the proposal.

The Board of Finance voted to raise the salary to approximately $49,000 with no benefits at the latest workshop. During the workshop, Huk said the increase would make the salary more reflective of the hours the job actually entails. This increase would not take effect until after the election in November.

During that meeting the Board of Finance also voted to move forward with repairs to the firehouse and the purchase of a new fire engine.

The board decided that it would use $300,000 from the $800,000 sale of the town’s cell tower to put towards the roof and a down payment on the engine. The rest of the cost of the engine, approximately $500,000, would be bonded.

Smith was worried the budget that is going to come out of the workshops is not something that the residents will be able to support.

“The public has already spoken at the workshops that they don’t support what has been proposed,” Smith said.

The finance board is meeting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. for another workshop.

Huk felt that the Board of Finance will be able to craft a budget that is acceptable.

“The expectation is that we will have a budget the townspeople can get behind at the end of this session,” Huk wrote.