Petition seeks to force machine vote on budget

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ProspectBushPROSPECT — A petition effort is underway to force the proposed $7.4 million 2013-14 town budget to a machine vote.

A petition to bring the budget to a machine vote has been taken out from the town clerk’s office by former Town Council member Dominick Mirabelle Jr. According to the town clerk’s office, 200 signatures must be obtained and submitted by 4 p.m. April 16 for a machine vote.

Mirabelle said the Democratic Town Committee voted April 1 to collect signatures as a party. Members plan to turn in the petition by Monday, he said.

The proposed budget is an increase of $451,682 or 6.5 percent over this year’s $7 million plan. A town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 17 at Community School, Center Street to discuss and vote on the budget. If the petition effort is successful a referendum will have to be held no less than seven days and no more than 14 days after the town meeting, Mayor Robert Chatfield said.

Chatfield said the town still needs more information from the state on revenue figures before he can say how the current tax rate of 27.58 mills will be affected.

Last month, Chatfield presented a plan that had an increase of 5.3 percent, or $370,722.

The budget only includes municipal expenses, and not expenses for Region 16, which oversees Beacon Falls and Prospect schools.
Major cost-driving factors include health insurance, police department costs and a proposed reimbursement for firefighters.

Under the proposal, medical benefits would increase by $80,000, or 14.8 percent, to $620,000. The police department shows larger increases in the resident trooper program, which would increase by $5,721 to $111,680, and in officers, an increase of $53,440 to $498,000.

There is a new budget item for volunteer firefighters’ expenses at $33,600. Those funds would reimburse volunteer firefighters per call, Chatfield said.

Town Council Chairman Thomas Galvin said the largest single increase the Town Council added to the mayor’s proposal was $75,000 to the contingency fund. That will give a cushion against any large expense such as a storm without having to take from the fund balance, he said.

Chatfield said money was added to various accounts that normally need a transfer, such as the ice and snow account. Under the spending plan, if he needs a transfer, he would first take it from contingency before touching the fund balance.

The budget proposal includes 3 percent pay raises for all town employees.

Elected officials don’t receive pay raises during their term of office. Any increases have to take place after the fall election, town officials said.

The spending plan includes raises for the mayor, town clerk and tax collector. All three are up for election in November.

Galvin said a petition for a machine vote most often occurs during an election year. He said the Town Council always wants to hear from the public.