Council moves budget to vote

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — After a couple of minor adjustments, the Town Council May 14 approved sending a $9.1 municipal budget proposal to a vote.

The council will have the final say on the budget this year, which would typically go to a vote at a town meeting, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The council will vote on the budget as well as a plan to bond $900,000 at a May 26 meeting.

The budget proposal increases municipal spending by $6,445 over the town’s 2019-20 budget. The spending plan is about $329,000 less than the budget proposal Mayor Robert Chatfield recommended to the council in early March.

Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said the council cut the mayor’s proposal drastically, but he’s confident the mayor, with the support of the council, can make the budget work.

A large reduction comes from a plan to share a resident state trooper with Bethany starting in the 2020-21 fiscal year. Sharing a trooper is projected to cut Prospect’s cost for the resident state trooper program in half to $105,337 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Overall, the proposed police budget is set to decrease by about $107,000 to roughly $1.01 million.

The council also reduced Chatfield’s recommendation of $40,000 for a finance director to the $10,000 that is already budgeted for the position — now called a municipal accounting assistant. Chatfield suggested a finance director to help with town finances in response to thefts from a town payroll account from December 2017 to November 2018. Some council members felt they needed more information on what the position would do before committing to the additional funds.

Slapikas asked council members to be open to possibly transferring funds for the position if they get a more in-depth proposal.

The $900,000 officials want to bond includes $785,000 for road repairs and $115,000 for radio repeaters for the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department. The first payment on the bond would be due in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The municipal budget doesn’t include school spending for Region 16. The Board of Education has approved a $40.7 million budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year that keeps overall spending flat but increases Prospect’s net education cost by a projected $1.4 million.

How the overall budget will impact the town’s tax rate of 30.95 mills was unclear last week. Chatfield was waiting on an estimated school budget surplus for the 2019-20 fiscal year, so he can factor the town’s share as revenue for the municipal budget. Additional revenue would help offset any potential increase in the tax rate.

Chatfield said last week he hopes to have all the revenue figures in place by the May 26 meeting, so the council can set the tax rate then.