Town Council trims budget increase

Mayor Robert Chatfield, fourth from the right, and the Town Council discuss ways to trim the 2013-14 town budget proposal during a workshop Tuesday night in Town Hall. –LUKE MARSHALL
Mayor Robert Chatfield, fourth from the right, and the Town Council discuss ways to trim the 2013-14 town budget proposal during a workshop Tuesday night in Town Hall. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — Voters sent the Town Council back to the drawing board after rejecting the proposed 2013-14 municipal budget at a referendum Monday.

The budget failed by a vote of 501 to 435. The proposed budget was $7.4 million, which would have increased spending by about $451,000 over the current budget.

The council held a budget workshop Tuesday night to trim the spending increase.

Chairman Thomas Galvin said the budget the council originally approved was already pretty tight.

“I know this budget was a very lean budget and whatever we cut will impact some aspect of life in Prospect,” Galvin said.

The council ultimately reduced the increase by about $111,000. The budget proposal now stands at about $7.3 million, an increase of roughly $340,000. It does not include any increases in the school budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls.

Officials did not say how the increase would impact the town’s mill rate as they are waiting to hear on how much state funding the town will receive.

The largest reduction the council made was in the transfer by council line item under contingency. It was reduced by $62,000 to $13,000. The line item was set up to help the town in case it needs to transfer money into other accounts due to unforeseen problems.

Councilor Theresa Graveline said the council did not just pull this number out of nowhere and it should not be seen as a new expenditure.

“It’s an accurate representation of how we spend money. It allows us to move money to where we need it,” Graveline said.

The town’s recycling center will be open less under the revamped budget. Mayor Robert Chatfield recommended the town close the center for the entire month of February, since the winter is generally a slower time there.

After some debate the council decided to have the center open every other week in January and February rather than be closed for a whole month. The move translates to a reduction of approximately $5,400.

The council also removed $2,500 from the Prospect Library’s book account.

Head Librarian John Wiehn, who was at the meeting, said the cut is a hard one.

“It will be tough. We would have to cut back on some of the book purchasing for sure,” Wiehn said. “We had an increase in the number of people going to the library. Circulation is going up.”

The cut would mean the library would not be able to purchase about 100 books this year, Wiehn said.

The Prospect Volunteer Fire Department was one of the few parts of the budget to escape any trimming.

Chatfield originally proposed removing $5,000 from the department’s proposed budget. However, residents at the meeting spoke out against that proposal and the council decided to leave fire department’s line item as is.

A town meeting on the budget is scheduled for May 9 at 7 p.m. at Community School. A referendum on the budget is expected to be held May 20.

The council will officially set the date for the referendum during its meeting Tuesday night.

Chatfield said he expects the vote to be hand-counted because doing so will save the town money.

Former council member Dominick Mirabelle Jr., who forced the referendum held Monday through a petition, said he plans to start another petition to force the town to have a machine-counted vote.

“I don’t trust anybody counting the votes. The machine is the one I want,” Mirabelle said.