Finance board approves budget for hearing

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the proposed $6.28 million municipal budget alone would increase the town’s mill rate by 1.4 mills to 32.5 mills. Of the 1.4 projected mill rate increase only 0.1 mill can be attributed the proposed operating budget of Beacon Falls. The remaining 1.3 mill increase stemmed from the proposed Region 16 budget, which was defeated at a referendum May 7.

BEACON FALLS — After months of deliberation, the town has a proposed municipal budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The proposed budget is $6.28 million, which is an increase of $270,000, or 4.4 percent, over the current budget. The Board of Finance approved the proposal last Wednesday night to move it to a public hearing.

The public hearing will be held May 22 at 7 p.m. at the firehouse on North Main Street.

The proposal is based on the current level of state funding the town receives. The state has not yet approved its budget.

The municipal budget proposal will increase the town’s current mill rate of 31.1 by 0.1 mills, according to Board of Finance Chairman James Huk.

A proposed $38.8 million budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, would have increased the mill rate for Beacon Falls by 1.3 mills, he said.

The Region 16 budget was defeated at a referendum Tuesday and the Board of Education is scheduled to meet May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Long River Middle School in Prospect for a budget workshop.

Among the largest expenses town officials debated throughout budget workshops were a new fire engine for Beacon Hose Company No. 1 to replace the current engine, which is 25 years old, and repairs to the roof at the firehouse.

The board voted to use $300,000 from the sale of the town’s cell tower on Lopus Road to repair the roof at the firehouse, which is estimated to cost $100,000. The remaining $200,000 will go towards a deposit on the new fire engine. A new fire engine is estimated to cost $700,000.

The remainder of the cost of the fire engine would be bonded out, depending on public approval.

The cost of the debt services for the bond in the proposed budget is $72,000, Huk said.

“This was a challenging process, largely because of the extended discussions needed to understand the proposed financing and the fire truck, and I’m proud of the way the board came together throughout the process to come to this final proposal,” Huk said in an email.

The budget also includes a raise of approximately $15,000 for the position of first selectman, which would take effect after the elections in November.

First Selectman Gerard Smith said he could not support the budget that the Board of Finance approved. However, he did acknowledge how much work went into crafting the budget.

“A lot of hard work and hours were put into the budget by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, and I appreciate that,” Smith said. “There’s a few more items where I feel we could save money and reduce the budget overall.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. In referance to mkrenesky letter,we must understand that everything he said should be taken with a grain of salt as all who know him know that he is just a lacky for Jerry Smith. As to Mr Smith”quickly rescinded the request” for a raise was just a ploy on his part to work so he can work it in to the buget later by having his other lacky Jack Livene make the motion.We need to get the old timers like these three out of office to stop them from using our money as thier own personal piggie bank

  2. I have stayed out of the general conversation related to the budget as discussed in the meetings I attended and in this venue, waiting for there to be a budget to be to be presented to the public. Up to this point there have been “proposals” from all departments in Town as to what they feel is needed to effectively run their departments and the Town as a whole. The sniping that we have all endured over one such suggestion was nothing more than political blah-blah in what is shaping up to be a very ugly election year. It is no different than the 2001-2003 cycle when the same individuals made life as an elected official as unbearable as possible because they were on the outside looking in, as they are today.

    I have to say that BF06403 is not wrong that a performance based reward system might be warranted. I do not agree that it should be based on the percentage of tax decrease, but on the amount of progress made in an environment that is as challenging as the current waning recession has been. The future will be no easier. We still have a ways to go in our recovery, but that is no reason not to be looking forward and redefining the role of 1st Selectman or adding a full time qualified Town Manager. Beacon Falls is at a disadvantage in many areas as we compete with cities and towns that have these professionals working for their residents.

    I am sure past elected officials will tell you they worked full time for part time pay. Did they? How do you do that when you are working another job, regardless if it is part or full time? Every elected official in Beacon Falls is considered part time. I for one go to Town Hall nearly every day and I am on the clock working town issues at all hours, but I am still part time.

    In March 2011, the Board of Selectmen consisting of Susan Cable, Dom Sorrentino, and I came to an agreement that a $60,000 to $65,000 salary was the compensation the position of 1st Selectman should be receiving based on the duties and pay package other area and comparable Town Leaders were receiving. It was “endorsed” by all three of us as something that must be done for the future of Beacon Falls. We did not agree that it should be full time, but I would never support a part time compensation package of this size. We also agreed that the salary should be raised $6,000/yr until it reached the $60,000 level. During that four year period the discussion over full time status would be necessary as again, I could not support a part time salary at this level, and I assume the general public would not either.

    That said, I support raising the salary incrementally over the next several years. Is $15,000 too much in one step, yes it is. But let’s be clear this is a Board of Finance proposal, not the 1st Selectman’s. 1st Selectman Smith raised an old proposal in his budget proposal, but quickly rescinded the request upon the initial response from the Board of Finance and public. It is the Board of Finance that owns this budget and not Gerry Smith. The members of the Board of Finance need to be questioned and asked to justify as to why a 4.4% increase is on the table.

    Because of the 4.4% increase, I cannot support the current budget as is being brought to the Public Hearing on May 22nd. We can and must do better.

  3. The budget also includes a raise of approximately $15,000 for the position of first selectman.

    Smith said. “There’s a few more items where I feel we could save money and reduce the budget overall.”

    The people of Beacon Falls will undoubtedly agree with our First Selectman – and we can all come up with the first item. Should this budget pass the public hearing stage, and should Mister Smith be re-elected and thus entitled to an increase in pay of roughly 43% (raise your hand if you’ve had a salary increase {without changing jobs or employers} in the past 20 years), perhaps he will take a queue from a sometimes used leadership philosophy in corporate America and forgo all but $1 in annual pay, for the good of the organization with which he would be charged to lead.

    Failing that, I think we should consider a performance based increase system for our town’s leadership. Simple math – for every percentage point our taxes go down, the leader gets a percentage increase. Let’s not forget the converse – for every percentage point our taxes go up, leadership’s pay drops by that percentage. This plan would include BOE funding as well, so the leader would probably want to make some friends in that group as well. We’re all in this together. It would be nice if everyone remembered that and showed it in what they do for our town.