BY ANDREAS YILMA
PROSPECT — Town residents approved a $9.7 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year as well as road bonding of up to $900,000 to repair and improve town roads.
About a few dozen members of the public came out the town meeting on Wednesday, May 3rd at the Community Center and unanimously voted in favor of a $428,431, or a 4.5% increase over the current fiscal year.
Some of the increases include a hike of $5,923 for both the town clerk and tax collector positions as the town is loosing employees for higher pay and an increase of $40,000 for telephones.
Mayor Robert Chatfield said three years ago, town officials replaced all the repeaters in town but the cost to service those has increased.
Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said the town is looking into other options. Its current phone provider is Frontier.
One new line item is cyber security with a cost of $23,125.
A large jump in the budget is recycling disposal and recycling pickup going $91,355 and $14,200, respectively as the nation grips with trash disposal crisis.
Other increases include Public Works diesel fuel going up by $15,420, programs going by $12,340 due more summer programs this year although $7,000 was committed from the current fiscal year to the upcoming year and Recreation Department field maintenance going up by $9000 because of fertilizer going up.
“The cost of fertilizer has doubled,” Prospect Treasurer Brenda Lee Martin said. “That’s a huge chunk of it.”
Town officials have committed a total of $251,000 from the 2022-23 fiscal year to the upcoming fiscal year.
Residents also unanimously approved to bond up to $900,000 for roads for the Highway Safety 2023 Program.
The town is planning to change all the basin tops with galvanized basin tops, mill the roads down about an inch and a half, repaving the streets and the fixing the curbing, Chatfield said.
“It takes us time to order basin tops,” Chatfield said. “It takes four, five months to replace about 150 basin tops.”
The roads that plan to be sought after include Allison Court, Amber Court, Buckley Lane, Chandler Drive, part of Nancy Mae Avenue, the rest of Melissa Lane, two thirds of Maple Drive, all of Peach Orchard Road, part of Merriman Lane, Robindale Drive, up in Cambridge Drive subdivision, Woodcrest Drive subdivision.
If there’s drainage projects or discovery of any water on the road, the town would fix the drainage before paving, Chatfield said.
Slapikas and Chatfield were pleased town residents approve the budget.
“This consumed my time for the last several months because everyday I was working on the budget,” Chatfield said. “I’m glad the people came out to support it.”
“I think it was a good move for them to approve the budget,” Slapikas said. “We did a good job knocking it down and I’m hoping that we can do a little bit of work from committed funds and maybe some surplus or general fund.”
Slapikas said the town council tabled to set the mill rate at the special meeting immediately after the town meeting in order to hear back from the state of what kind of funds the town may get from them.
“If they give us a couple hundred thousand dollars, it affects the mill rate. So we don’t want to set the mill rate until we know what we’re getting from the state,” Slapikas said. “I expect to hear back from the state the latest, June 2nd. That’s the deadline for them.”
The town’s current mill rate sits at 31.95 mills. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Slapikas said he’s hopeful that town officials don’t change the mill rate this year. The second week of June would be the latest that the Town Council would set the mill rate.