Mayor presents $9.4M budget proposal to council

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Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — Mayor Robert Chatfield’s proposed municipal budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year is $9.4 million.

The proposal, which Chatfield presented to the Town Council March 9, increases overall town spending by $335,943, or nearly 3.7%, over this fiscal year’s municipal budget.

The budget proposal is now in the hands of the council, which will review it during workshops before presenting a proposal to the public at a hearing in April.

“I know I worked fine with this council for the last 12 years, so I’m sure we’ll make the cuts in the budget where necessary and get it as tight as we can for the taxpayers,” council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said.

Salary increases for employees drive much of the spending increases for town departments, but exactly how much salaries will go up is to be determined. Chatfield said he factored in 2.25% increases for employees in his budget proposal. He still has to negotiate with the town’s four unions, he said, but added a 2.25% increase is the average awarded in six recent contract arbitration rulings in the state.

The town’s principal debt payments are going up $95,000, according to the proposal. The increase includes first-time payments of $75,000 for a bond issued for road work in 2019 and $50,000 to start covering the town’s liability for post-employee benefits. These new payments were offset some because the town made its last $30,000 payment this fiscal year on the purchase of the property at 3 Center St.

Chatfield’s proposal also includes $40,000 for a new finance director position to help oversee the town’s finances and $12,000 for a payroll service, which would be the first time the town used this type of service.

These proposals come after thefts from a town payroll account went unnoticed for almost a year. Unauthorized transactions were made from the town’s Webster Bank payroll account from December 2017 to November 2018. The thefts became public when state police announced in January that they made an arrest in the ongoing investigation.

The budget proposal would also create a grant writer position in town. The budget includes $23,000 for the position, which Chatfield envisions sharing with another municipality.

The town budget doesn’t include school spending for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin’s has proposed a 2020-21 school budget that would keep overall school spending the same as this fiscal year. However, Prospect’s net education cost, which is the share of the school budget funded by local taxes, would increase $1.4 million based on estimated revenues and an increase in the percentage of students from the town, according to the school budget proposal.

Slapikas said the council can’t do anything about the school budget, but his goal is to work to reduce the increase in the town budget proposal.

The council is scheduled to hold a hearing on the budget April 20. A town meeting to vote on the budget is scheduled for May 7.