Letter: Process should be in place for excess funds

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To the editor,

The recent report from the June 26 edition of the Citizen’s News, “Budget balance eyed for supplies, projects,” has caused me a great deal of concern. When the boards of selectmen and finance in Beacon Falls work together to craft our annual municipal budget, we do so with one eye on what is happening at Region 16. These two budgets taken together drive our mill rate, and increases in the Region budget limit our ability to address town-specific issues without adversely affecting tax rates.

For the past three years, the region has reached the end of the year with excess balances of $900K, $1.3 million, and this year, a projected almost $1.4 million. According to the story, the Board of Education’s intention is to use this excess balance for a number of items, a list that reportedly includes everything from music equipment to capital repairs on at least three of the region’s schools.

When I and the Board of Selectmen in Beacon Falls wish to access excess funds from our general fund balance, we must first request approval from our Board of Finance and then, for projects over $20,000, take the question to the voters and taxpayers in town for their approval. If the region has a clear need for expending their excess funds, they should have to follow a similar path, or else the excess should be returned to both Prospect and Beacon Falls. In the latest Beacon Falls budget there was an increase in the mill rate of 0.8 mills, all attributable to the increase in the Region 16 budget, almost exactly the amount of our proportional share of this budget excess. If this surplus had been returned to the town, instead of increasing taxes on our residents our citizens could have had the option to consider spending these funds on much needed repair projects, such as roads, that have continually been put off to the future.

I was encouraged by the statement from Region 16 Superintendent Yamin that he did not anticipate completing all of the projects on the list and that he expects the towns to receive more than our portion of the $500,000 “carryover” that is built into the budget at the start; I hope it is substantially more.

Christopher Bielik

First Selectman

Beacon Falls