By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — The Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen have cut $638,520 to create a new $9 million municipal budget proposal for 2022-23 after residents voted 184-32 against a $9.6 million package May 25.
“That vote came out very loudly in my mind that costs have to come down,” finance member Wendy V. Hopkinson said after the Board of Finance unanimously approved the new proposal, which contains $8.5 million for operating expenses and $476,942 for capital projects after the two boards held joint budget workshops Tuesday and Wednesday at Town Hall.
The municipal budget doesn’t include the school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters from both towns previously approved a $41.7 million package. Beacon Falls’ net education spending will be $14.6 million, up about $519,000, or 3.7%, due to a larger enrollment next school year.
The town’s total proposed budget for next fiscal year is about $23.6 million.
“I think we (Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen) worked well together to bring cuts that don’t damage the workings of the town too much but still continue to move us forward,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said.
Residents will vote on the new budget proposal June 21 at 7 p.m. Selectmen will announce the location at their June 13 meeting.
Smith and Board of Finance Chairman James Carroll both said they believe they made changes that would move the town in the right direction.
The original $8.9 million operating budget was up $976,127, or 12.5%. With the latest cuts, that boost in spending would be 7.5%.
“I think we worked very well together … and we heard the public at the last vote so we made significant changes,” Carroll said. “We went from 12.5% operating costs and brought it down a full 5% to 7.5%, and we were able to lower the tax rate to 28.31 mills, which is a 1.33-mill drop from where we were at with 29.64 (mills).”
One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Smith said he owns two houses in town where one property’s taxes dropped $29 and the other down $17, while Selectman Michael A. Krenesky’s taxes went up $700. When an influx of people from New York and New Jersey came to the Connecticut, local property values rose 25%, 30% and 40%, Smith noted.
Cuts include $41,000 for the economic development consultant, $30,000 for part-time police patrol expenses, the new $90,000 assistant public works director position, $25,000 for pavement maintenance and $14,570 for wastewater treatment operations.
Residents were critical of the assistant public works director position at a previous budget hearing.
Town officials initially removed $285,000 for vehicle replacement in capital expenditures but eventually put back $100,000 from the unassigned fund balance for a future ambulance and plow truck, and moved $100,000 for legal expenses from the operating budget to capital expenditures for the future data center project.
The unassigned fund balance, or surplus, now falls from 4% to 2% above the town’s minimum threshold. Town officials project to have $388,175 available above the 12% minimum threshold of $2.8 million.
Officials are using fund balance to reduce the tax burden for residents, Finance Manager Natasha Nau said.