Council sends $9.1 million budget to hearing

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — After weeks of combing through budget requests, the Town Council has backed a proposed municipal budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that increases town spending by less than 1%.

The council will hold a virtual hearing on the budget on Tuesday at 7 p.m. For information on how to join the meeting, visit townofprospect.org.

The proposed $9.1 million budget would increase town spending by $75,456, or about 0.8%, over this fiscal year.

Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said 2.75% raises for union and non-union town employees next fiscal year alone amount to an increase of about $74,000.

The spending plan is $171,350 less than the proposal Mayor Robert Chatfield presented to the council in March.

The proposal commits about $161,137 in anticipated surplus funds from this fiscal year to help fund the 2021-22 budget. Rather than put the surplus funds in the overall general fund, the money will be committed for the same areas in the 2021-22 budget where the surplus money originated.

For example, there is an anticipated surplus of $10,000 in salt for roads. Rather than budgeting $60,000 for salt in 2021-22, the spending plan budgets $50,000 and the $10,000 surplus will be committed for buying salt next fiscal year.

Slapikas said each council member and the mayor worked together to find ways to keep the increase down while budgeting what’s needed to run the town.

“We couldn’t do it as just one party or one person,” he said. “It was the combination of the mayor’s work and all nine council members to put a good budget together.”

Chatfield said a lot of time was spent looking for ways to reduce the increase for taxpayers.

“All nine council members, including myself, worked more hours on this budget than we have on any other,” he said.

The council could schedule another workshop after the hearing if additional changes are needed to the budget.

Slapikas said there won’t be a town meeting this year to vote on the budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no town meeting last year, as well. The council will take action on the budget in May.

The town budget does not include school spending for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. The Region 16 Board of Education has approved a $40.9 million budget proposal to send to a vote at a district meeting May 3. The school budget proposal increases overall spending for the region by $253,657.

Prospect’s net education cost is projected to increase $854,424 to about $21.4 million, even though the overall increase is significantly less, based on revenue projections and the percentage of students from both towns. The percentage of students from Prospect increased from 63.25% last school year to 65% this school year, shifting more of the net education cost onto the town.