BEACON FALLS — About a dozen people turned out for a public hearing last week on the proposed 2015-16 municipal budget.
The budget proposal is $6.23 million, an increase of $36,162 or 0.58 percent over the current town budget.
“We made every effort to take into consideration what we need to run the town and keep the taxes as low as possible. That’s our goal,” said Board of Finance Chairman Jack Levine during the hearing April 22 at Woodland Regional High School.
Richard Minnick, Toby’s Pond steward, was the only resident to speak at the hearing. He requested that the Board of Finance revisit the issue of filling a seventh public works position.
The Board of Selectmen originally proposed filling the position, which has been vacant for several years, but it was removed by the finance board. The cost was $58,000 to fill the position.
Minnick said being short-staffed is costing the town time and money. He added work planned is not able to be completed.
“The work schedule was planned. It would not have been done all in one year, but it was planned. When it came down to actual time to start implementing it, guess what? Summer vacations. We did not have enough town crew members and it never got done,” Minnick said.
After the public hearing, the Board of Selectmen voted to send the budget to a vote at a town meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the senior center, 57 North Main St.
The spending plan includes raises for nearly all elected officials.
The raises include $8,750, or $25.6 percent, for the first selectman, and $2,859, or 38.5 percent, for the two selectmen. The tax collector will receive a $2,214, or 26.2 percent, increase in the proposal. The budget also includes a $1,803, or 31.6 percent, increase for the treasurer.
There are no increases for the town clerk or registrars of voters. The raises will go into effect after the November election. Elected officials are only eligible to receive raises every two years.
“Both boards felt very strongly that we are clearly underpaying town officials. We have kept that level for many years and everyone does a lot of work. So, we felt that we should make a start at raising the salaries,” Levine said.
Levine said the town, through the Connecticut Council of Municipalities, compared the wages of elected officials with those in similar towns and found Beacon Falls was paying significantly less.
“We are really woefully under what other towns are paying. So, this gives us a start in the right direction,” Levine said.
Levine said the total increase is not very much, even though the percentages are high.
“If you look at the percentage, the percentages seem high. But I will say to you that the total cost is only $18,485,” Levine said.
The budget also includes an additional $23,552 for part-time police officers to provide full-time police coverage in town.
The police department’s budget also includes a $16,879 increase for the resident state trooper program and a $15,843 increase for vehicle repair and maintenance.
Levine said the increase for the resident state trooper program is not the town’s choice.
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal includes having towns pay 100 percent of the cost of their resident troopers.
“Right now the governor’s budget is going to expect the town’s to pick up the money the state has been paying. We don’t know what the final vote is going to be on the budget, but we have to be mindful of this very real possibility,” Levine said.
The budget for the wastewater treatment plant is set to go up $44,852. This is due in part to a $15,000 increase in plant operations and a $10,000 increase in sludge processing. The town’s cost for nitrogen credits went up over $15,000 as well due to the plant not being in compliance with current state regulations.
The proposed town budget doesn’t include education costs for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.
The Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $40.5 million 2015-16 budget. The school spending plan is an increase of $796,500 or 2 percent over current school spending. Beacon Falls’ net education cost is $10,832,933, an increase of $382,621 or 3.66 percent, under the school budget proposal.
The school budget will be voted on next week.
At what salary level should the town reconsider the part-time status of the First Selectman? If this proposal is passed, the 1st Selectman will be earning over $42,000/year. That is one great part time salary, which has an opened ended work schedule. Is part-time 10, 20 hours a week or should it be a mandated 30 or more hours? If 30 hours, should the position qualify for benefits? This needs to be spelled out in an ordinance, so we are not getting 10 hours of effort for a position that clearly needs to be a full-time job.