Town meeting Tuesday to vote on budget

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BFTownHall2BEACON FALLS — The town’s 2013-14 budget will head to a vote for a second time.

A town meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the firehouse on North Main Street to vote on the proposed $6.12 million municipal budget. The spending plan represents an increase of $102,559 or 1.7 percent over the current budget.

“It’s a responsible budget,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said. “It’s a budget we can work with.”

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk asked residents to look at the budget as a whole, rather than individual line items.

“A budget is in many cases a compromise, and the Board of Finance’s job is to propose a spending plan that reflects the best use of the town’s tax dollars at that time. Many people have a line or two they don’t agree with in the budget, but for every person we hear from that is for a line we typically have someone completely against it. All I ask is that voters see past any individual item they may disagree with and vote on the budget as a whole. In my opinion, a budget that reduces taxes is a win for everyone, and should be supported,” Huk said.

Voters rejected the first proposed budget of $6.2 million at a referendum earlier this month June. No petition was submitted to force the current budget proposal to a referendum.

After the first plan was rejected, the Board of Finance removed about $76,000 from operating expenses in the budget plan, including a $72,000 bond payment for a new fire engine for Beacon Hose Company No. 1.

The fire engine will go to a separate town meeting for the residents to decide whether to bond and purchase it.

The finance board also removed a roof replacement at Beacon Hose. That item will be voted on separately Tuesday night.

Residents will be asked to approve use of this year’s contingency fund to repair the roof, which is estimated to cost between $65,000 and $80,000, Huk said. It will have no impact on next year’s plan, he said.

The major driver for the increase in the town plan is debt service and special projects, Huk said.

He noted that the year-over-year increase for special projects is significant because last year’s projects were paid for through a loan approved by voters outside of the budget.

The budget proposal includes several items for special projects, such as $11,000 for a new library study.

The plan contains a proposed bond issue of $119,000 to refinance the town’s outstanding debt and a note residents approved to finance 15 special projects for 2012-13.

The town budget does not include education expenses for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters approved a nearly $38.5 million school budget at a referendum June 18.

According to town budget documents, the current tax rate of 31.1 mills would increase by 0.8 mills to 31.9 mills.

A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Under a possible tax rate of 31.9 mills, the tax bill for a home assessed at $200,000 would be $6,380, or $160 more.

Most of the increase to the tax rate is due to the school budget, said Huk. Of the 0.8 mills, 0.6 mills is due to the school plan.

The remainder is due to a change approved by residents last week to an existing ordinance for tax relief for elderly and disabled residents, he said. The revision only affected the calculation of the tax rate, not the budget, Huk said.

Instead of $64,000 being deducted from the tax rate collection, it’s now $144,000 under the revised ordinance, Huk said. To make up for a shortfall of $80,000, the tax rate increased by 0.2 mills, he said.

If the town budget doesn’t pass, officials will determine how to approach sending out tax bills.

Smith said regardless the tax bills would still be going out late this year and residents will still receive them in July.

“We’re still deciding how we’ll do it if it doesn’t pass,” Smith said of sending out tax bills.

The town has the option of sending out tax bills at the current mill rate and then another supplemental tax bill for the remainder of the tax after the budget is set. That option, however, will force the town to pay for extra postage, extra envelopes and printing twice as many tax bills, Smith said.

The town also has the option of not sending out tax bills and floating along until the new budget is passed. Smith said that option depends on when a budget is passed because the town has bills that are coming due.

“We may have no alternative but to send out supplemental bills which is costly to the town. Costly and confusing,” Smith said.

The Republican American contributed to this article.