BEACON FALLS – Beacon Falls town officials voted to trim the proposed 2010-11 municipal budget by nearly $85,000 at a special joint meeting between the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance Tuesday night at Town Hall in hopes of gaining popular approval later this month.
The new, $5.86 million budget will be presented to the public at a hearing May 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 before being sent to referendum May 27.
The originally proposed $5.95 million budget was voted down, 139-83, at a town meeting May 5, prompting the boards to hold a joint meeting with chairpersons of major town departments Tuesday. The joint boards voted to cut $84,152 from the budget.
The original budget was a $475,554 increase, or 8.9%, from the 2009-10 figure, $366,777 of which was to be funded by new taxes. Following Tuesday’s cuts, the increase stands at $391,402, which is a 7.2% hike. The figures could change slightly when increases from the recently approved $36.6 million Region 16 budget are added, according to town officials.
First Selectman Susan Cable asked each department chairperson for any possible concessions because she said she didn’t think there was any specific input from last week’s town meeting with which to work.
“Because it was a town meeting and we didn’t really get any input, all we heard was people don’t want their taxes raised,” Cable said. “I think it’s a very tight budget, a very painful budget. Every department is sacrificing beyond the bare minimum.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen met and decided to aim for cuts to the proposed budget between $60,000 and $100,000 before holding a public hearing to present the revised budget to the public.
“We decided we would be comfortable knocking out about $85,000 before we went back to the people,” Cable said. “We agreed to have a public hearing to present the cuts and see if people want more cuts.”
Nearly every town department made at least some concessions in helping trim the budget by 1.7%. Cuts included $30,000 earmarked for chip sealant and road repair, $20,000 in engineering consultant and town counsel fees, $12,500 for upgrades to the town hall’s phone system, $10,000 intended for Beacon Hose Co. No. 1, $6,900 for a new police vehicle, and $3,000 to the park and recreation budget.
Minor cuts were also made to public library programs and the budget for selectmen’s expenses.
Several other cuts were debated but not included in the budget concessions. Town officials considered saving $5,000 by ending the annual Family Day and fireworks show starting in 2011 and also discussed eliminating subsidies to local sports organizations but decided against both measures.
Also kept in the budget was $114,000 allocated for the balance of the wastewater treatment plant. After a discussion detailing the progressively worsening plight of the plant’s equipment, town officials decided it would be detrimental to cut that department’s budget any further.
The joint board voted to accept the proposed cuts, 6-2, as Selectman Dominic Sorrentino and Board of Finance member Robert Doiron both dissented.
“To cut one-tenth of a mill, to me, is fiscally irresponsible,” Doiron said. “We should either go back with the same budget or make a cut that actually means something to the people.”
Cable countered by arguing most town departments will be operating on a bare-bones budget as is and could not function well if further cuts are made.
“The very drastic cuts that [Board of Finance Chairperson] Wendy [Hopkinson] and I came out with were $800,000,” Cable said, “and I could get you another $200,000, but we might as well close the town.”