Prospect voters approve budget

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Shelley Zinno of Prospect casts her ballot on the budget Monday afternoon at the firehouse. The proposed $7.28 million 2013-14 town budget was approved by 62 votes, 660 yes to 598 no. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Shelley Zinno of Prospect casts her ballot on the budget Monday afternoon at the firehouse. The $7.28 million 2013-14 town budget was approved by 62 votes, 660 yes to 598 no. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — The third time proved to be the charm for the town budget.

Voters approved Prospect’s municipal budget of roughly $7.28 million for 2013-14 by 62 votes, 660 yes to 598 no, at a referendum Monday.

“Thank you to all the taxpayers who came out and supported the budget,” Mayor Robert Chatfield said after the results were announced at the firehouse.

Chatfield’s message to those who voted against the budget was that he is a “penny-pincher” and he will look over the taxpayers’ money as if it is his own pennies.

Chatfield also thanked the poll workers for their effort and everyone who voted, whether they voted yes or no, for taking part in the democratic process.

“This is what America is all about because some countries don’t have this,” Chatfield said.

The spending plan is an increase of nearly $300,000 or 4.3 percent over the current budget. The municipal budget doesn’t include expenses for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Region 16’s nearly $38.5 million budget proposal will go to a vote early next week.

The $7.28 million budget was the third proposal the Town Council presented for a vote.

“Now we can get on with running our town,” Chatfield said.

Two prior budget proposals had failed to gain approval from voters.

The original proposal of more than $7.4 million was forced to a referendum by a petition and failed April 29 by 66 votes. The day after the vote the council reduced the increase by about $110,500.

However, the slimmer budget was rejected by seven votes on May 20.

In response to the second rejection, the council approved a net decrease of $41,209 in the budget increase to reach the roughly $7.28 million figure. 

The changes made to the original proposal include closing the recycling center for five weeks this coming winter, removing $12,500 from the police officers account and thousands of dollars from the snow and ice budget.

In May, Chatfield told the council the town still will be able to keep three shifts with two police officers on the day and second shifts and one officer on third shift plus the resident state trooper.

The original budget increased a number of accounts, such as the ice and snow budget, the council traditionally has transferred money into from the general fund to accurately reflect costs and avoid future transfers. Even with the money taken from the snow and ice budget, the account is still higher than the current budget.

The spending plan also includes $15,000 for a new line item, transfer by council, under the contingency budget. The transfer by council line item will give the council an area to draw money from without touching the general fund, which in turn will keep the town’s bond rating and general fund healthy, officials said.

The first proposed budget included $75,000 for the line item after the council added $50,000 onto Chatfield’s recommendation of $25,000. After the first budget failed, the line item was reduced to $13,000 and Chatfield suggested wiping it out entirely following the second budget defeat.

The council felt strongly about retaining the funds and left $10,000 for the line item. The council also moved $5,000 from the regular contingency line item to transfer by council. The total contingency account now stands at $22,000, which includes $7,000 for regular contingency.

The budget includes 3 percent raises for all town employees with the exception of Assistant Public Works Director Gene McCarthy. McCarthy voluntarily returned his raise of about $2,600. The money was included in the second round of cuts and reductions.

The budget also includes 3 percent raises for the positions of mayor, town clerk and tax collector. All three are up for election in November and the raises will be implemented following the election.

Funds to reimburse volunteer firefighters totaling $33,600 are part of the plan as well. Those funds will be used to reimburse volunteer firefighters per call they respond to under certain guidelines.