Council finalizes spending plan

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PROSPECT — After some minor adjustments, the Town Council last week approved a $7.8 million 2015-16 municipal budget to send to a public vote.

The spending plan is an increase of $233,351 or 3 percent over the current budget.

“The Town Council worked harder than usual this year,” said Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin following a budget workshop April 9. “We have an increase that really reflects the actual cost to the town. We made every effort to keep it small, and we’re happy that we’ve done a good job. But, it’s up to the public to let us know if we haven’t.”

A vote on the budget is scheduled for a town meeting April 22 at 7 p.m. at Community School. The budget could be forced to a referendum through a petition process. No petition had been started as of Monday, according to the town clerk’s office.

The final budget proposal is nearly $20,000 higher than the budget presented at a public hearing April 7.

The money put back into the budget at the April 9 workshop includes $7,500 for land acquisition and $5,000 more for the transfer by town council line item under the contingency account.

The land acquisition account had no funds in it. Council member Theresa Graveline said it’s important to plan for the future. She said that account has dwindled over the years because the town purchased land, which she added is a good thing.

“Now it’s smart to build it back up again,” she said.

The transfer by town council line item was created two years ago. It falls under the contingency account and was established for the council to transfer money into other accounts due to unforeseen expenditures. The council used to transfer funds from its general fund, if necessary, which reflects poorly on the town’s bond rating.

Galvin said the budget accurately reflects what officials think the town needs to spend without building contingencies in to individual accounts.

“We need to have someplace to go if the unexpected does happen,” he said.

The $5,000 added to transfer by council brings it to $35,000, which is the current funding level for the account.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for 17 unionized town employees. It includes a 5 percent pay increase for the town clerk and tax collector. It also includes a $1,893 pay increase for Mayor Robert Chatfield. The pay raise represents a 2.4 percent increase.

Elected officials are only eligible to receive raises every two years.

The ice and snow removal budget is set to increase $42,000, which includes raises for public works employees, $7,000 more for salt and $5,000 more for contractors.

The police budget will increase about $37,000 due to police officer salaries going up and a $21,000 increase to the resident state trooper program.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal includes having towns pay 100 percent of the cost of their resident troopers. The proposal is still working its way though the legislature.

The town’s spending plan includes $145,000, which isn’t 100 percent of the cost, for the resident state trooper program. Officials said last week they were comfortable with that figure for the program. Under the worst-case scenario, officials said, the cost for the program would be $186,000.

There is also $3,500 in the budget proposal to establish the town’s first blight commission. The council approved an ordinance creating the commission earlier this year.

The proposed town budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The town’s budget is only about 25 percent of the tax bill for residents. The remainder is for education spending.

The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $40.5 million 2015-16 budget. The school spending plan is an increase of $796,500 or 2 percent over current school spending. Prospect’s net education costs will increase $502,894 or 3.01 percent to $17,224,839 under the spending plan.

Town to seek funds for road work

PROSPECT — Officials are seeking to bond $600,000 to pay for repair roads.

Voters will be asked to authorize the borrowing at a town meeting April 22 at 7 p.m. at Community School. The town’s municipal budget proposal will be voted on at the meeting as well. The two issues will be voted on separately.

Last year, voters authorized boning $500,000 for road work, which paid for nearly 5 miles of roads to be fixed.

Mayor Robert Chatfield said last week the town was still finalizing the list of roads that will be fixed this year under the proposal. The roads officials are targeting include, portions of Cook Road, Matthews Street and Straightsville Road. Radio Tower Road and Hydelor Avenue are also under consideration for repairs. Chatfield said the final list of roads to be repaired will be available at the town meeting.

If the money is approved, the work is expected to begin in July or August.