Third vote on tap for Prospect budget

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TownSealPROSPECT — Mayor Robert Chatfield is hoping the third time will be the charm when it comes to getting the budget approved at a referendum.

A $7.28 million 2013-14 budget proposal will go to referendum Monday. The spending plan is an increase of nearly $300,000 or 4.3 percent over the current budget. Voting will take place at the firehouse on New Haven Road from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Chatfield said the municipal budget would increase the mill rate by about .58 mills using current state revenue figures.  

The municipal budget doesn’t include expenses for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Region 16’s second budget proposal of $38.58 million was rejected at a referendum May 30. On Wednesday, the school board approved a nearly $38.5 million budget proposal to send to a paper ballot vote at a district meeting June 17 at 7 p.m. at Long River Middle School. The school budget could be petitioned to a referendum.

So far Prospect voters have rejected two town budget proposals at referendums. The original proposal of more than $7.4 million was forced to a referendum by a petition and failed by 66 votes. The next day 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 to reach the roughly $7.28 million figure. 

“We’ve cut $150,000 off the original budget,” Chatfield said.

Included in the most recent round of reductions was $6,000 from the ice and snow budget. The line item still has an increase over the current budget.

Chatfield has called this a “climate change budget” on numerous occasions in reference to the number of major storms that have hit the state in the past few years.

Chatfield said he’s hoping it will be a warm winter.

“Please remember what you saw when you looked out your window on Feb. 9,” Chatfield said. “I hope I haven’t shot myself in the foot. If we have a winter like last winter, it could cause us problems.”

Chatfield said he’s concerned about what else would have to be cut if this budget does not pass.

“The town still has to provide services. Parks are being used by families more than ever,” Chatfield said. “We’re closing the recycling center for five weeks in January and February. We might have to close other things if we have a bad winter. I can’t predict what will happen.”

If the budget doesn’t pass on Monday, Chatfield said the town will send out tax bills based on the current mill rate. The bill would only include real estate.

“Then when the budget finally passes, when the mill rate is set, a mini-tax bill will be sent out,” Chatfield said.

This second tax bill would include the remainder of the real estate and car taxes.

“It will cost us more postage and more money to print tax bills,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield urged residents to inform themselves about what is contained in the budget before they head out to vote. He urged voters to visit the town’s website, www.townofprospect.org, for detailed information.

“There’s a great deal of budget facts on that page. Please vote yes,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield pointed out that the town’s budget only makes up 25 percent of residents’ tax dollar, with Region 16 making up the rest.

The proposed 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 latest reduction.

A proposed reimbursement for firefighters of $33,600 remains in the plan. Those funds would reimburse volunteer firefighters per call they respond to under certain guidelines.

Chatfield said he hopes the town can get behind the budget.

“I urge you all to please come out and support the budget so that we can be the same Prospect, Connecticut we have been in the past,” Chatfield said.