Proposed $6 million budget going to town meeting

A proposed $6 million municipal budget for Beacon Falls was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night at Beacon Hose Co. No. 1. The proposal is an increase of $165,000, or 2.8 percent, over the current budget. A town meeting is scheduled for May 1 to vote on the proposal. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The Board of Finance presented a budget of just over $6 million to the town during a public hearing on Tuesday.

The proposed budget reflects an increase of approximately $165,000, or 2.8 percent, over the town’s current $5.86 million budget.

Documents that the board had available for the public showed the proposed budget would put the mill rate at 30.8 mills. However, this does not take into consideration any increase in Region 16’s budget.

Following the hearing, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen discussed the budget but made no changes. The proposed budget will now go to a vote at a town meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. May 1 at the fire house.

During the public hearing, First Selectman Gerard Smith told residents that the town needs to fund some large ticket items. However, he knew that if these items were stuck into the budget, the budget would be too high to reasonably be expected to pass.

These items included refurbishing the ambulance to bring it up to code, new defibrillators, a town-wide radio system, a comprehensive study of the waste water treatment plant, and the money to pay the contractors for work done on the streetscape project and Blackberry Hill Road.

Smith said that these were not just items that the town would like to have, they were items the town needed.

“These are things that have been put off for years that will actually cripple the town if we don’t do them,” Smith said.

He explained that the board members were trying to think outside the box when it came to ways to provide for the town while not over taxing the residents.

Rather than include these items in the budget, Smith explained the town will seek a loan to pay for the work. The town would borrow $1.1 million and pay it back over a 10 year period under the plan, he said.

This money would allow the town to fix all of the most urgent problems that had been identified by officials.

Upon borrowing this money, the town would have to begin paying it back at a rate of $130,000 a year. The loan would not have any effect on this year’s taxes. The town would need to start paying it back beginning in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

However, it takes a certain amount of time to apply for and receive a loan, and the residents can not vote on the loan until the town has all the correct documents. According to officials, the budget has to be voted on before the loan is voted on.

This could present a problem for the town because some of the money that the town is contractually obligated to pay, such as the approximately $200,000 for the streetscape and Blackberry Hill Road, are wrapped up in the loan.

Smith explained that if the budget passes and the loan does not, the town will be have to work within those boundaries and have to make deep cuts from the current budget.

Smith explained that, without the loan, the critical items that the town had planned on doing would have to be put off for another year and the town would have to hope that nothing went wrong.

“We’re trying to make the point very clear that what’s in the loan that’s being proposed are all critical items,” finance board member Jack Levine said.

The town’s next step is to bring the proposed budget to the public for a vote. If the public votes to approve this budget, the town will still have to bring the loan to the residents for a vote. A date has not been set for that vote.