Council presents budget at hearing

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PROSPECT — The Town Council presented the 2015-16 municipal budget proposal at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The spending plan is $7.78 million, which is an increase of $213,542 or 2.8 percent over the current town budget.

Mayor Robert Chatfield described the increase as “one of the lowest increases we’ve had in a long, long time.”

About 10 people turned out for the hearing at Town Hall. They listened as officials went though the proposed budget line by line, though no one spoke or asked questions on the plan.

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 Chatfield. The pay raise represents a 2.4 percent increase.

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

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. The $21,000 more for the resident state trooper program could go up higher if Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to have towns pay 100 percent of the cost of their resident troopers is approved in the legislature.

The spending plan includes $145,000 for the resident state trooper program. Officials said that number could climb to about $170,000 if Malloy’s proposal is adopted.

The town’s budget proposal also includes a $30,000 increase for health insurance.

The town is currently working with Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, on a plan to pool all municipal and school employees for health care. A resolution is not expected for months.

“If we can join with them we should be saving a considerable amount of money,” Chatfield said.

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.

“It is needed, sorely needed,” said Chatfield about the commission.

Principal debt payments are going up about $122,000. The increase includes new payments of $75,000 and $30,000 for road safety improvements and the purchase of the house at 3 Center St., respectively.

Officials will have help dealing with the increase thanks to the 2014 net grand list going up $11.1 million or about 1.37 percent from 2013. Using the current mill rate of 28.98, the increase in the grand list represents approximately $324,000 in new tax revenue.

The proposed town budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16. Chatfield emphasized that 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.

The council is scheduled to meet Thursday at 6 p.m. at Town Hall for a budget workshop to finalize the spending plan. A town meeting to vote on the budget is scheduled for April 22 at 7 p.m. at Community School. The budget could be forced to a referendum through a petition process.

Council Chairman Tom Galvin said overall he’s pleased with the bottom line of the budget proposal.

“I’m very happy with the bottom line number,” he said. “I think we still have some things we can cut and some things that probably should be increased for the good of the town. But, I’m very happy with the 2.8 percent increase.”