By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — Though disheartened, the Town Council on June 1 approved a tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year that increases taxes by about 2.2%.
The council unanimously set the tax rate at 32.3 mills, an increase of 0.7 mills over this fiscal year.
The tax rate is the amount of taxes payable on the assessed value of property. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Under a 32.3 mill tax rate, taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 are $3,230. The 0.7-mill increase equates to $70 in additional taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value.
While the vote was unanimous, council members expressed dismay over increasing taxes.
“We worked really hard and it’s disappointing to know we still have to go up,” council member Megan Patchkofsky said.
The tax increase stems from the town’s education costs for Region 16, which is composed of Beacon Falls and Prospect, going up.
The roughly $9.09 million 2021-22 municipal budget decreases town spending from this fiscal year by $1,616.
The $40.9 million 2021-22 Region 16 budget increases overall school spending by $253,657. However, Prospect’s net education cost will increase $854,425 largely due to the percentage of Prospect students in the region going from 63.25% to 65% this school year, which shifted more of the cost onto the town.
The town’s total 2021-22 budget, including school expenses, is about $35.3 million, an increase of about $852,000.
“The major increase is clearly for Region 16,” said Mayor Robert Chatfield, who urged residents to tell school administrators if they know of someone attending schools in Region 16 who say they live in Prospect but don’t live in town.
Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said there’s nothing the council can do about the increase in education costs. He said the council and mayor worked hard on the town budget, and he’s not happy with the increase in the tax rate.
“It’s not an increase that we can control at the moment,” Slapikas said.
Council members discussed waiting to set the tax rate to see if the town receives additional revenue, namely federal COVID-19 relief funds, to offset or reduce the tax increase.
Chatfield said it’s unclear what additional relief funds the town may receive. He said if he knew of additional revenue he would have included it in the budget.
The budget uses $300,000 from the unreserved fund balance, or surplus, as revenue. Chatfield advised against using any more surplus funds, saying the town needs to keep money in reserves in case of emergencies.
Slapikas said if the town anticipates additional federal funds and the money doesn’t come, it would have to come out of the fund balance. He said if the town does get additional COVID funds it can be used to ease the burden on taxpayers moving forward.