Vote on Prospect budget tonight

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PROSPECT — Residents can vote tonight on a proposed $7 million town budget for next year that increases spending by 1.1 percent.

The 2012-13 proposal carries an increase of $79,309 over this year’s $6.9 million plan.

The annual town meeting on the proposed budget will begin at 7 p.m. at Community School on Center Street

Mayor Robert Chatfield said he has not yet calculated how the town’s plan would affect the current tax rate of 25.20 mills. He noted that Prospect’s grand list dropped overall by 5.9 percent, mainly due to a poor housing market and revaluation of real estate in town.

The budget only includes municipal expenses, and not for Region 16, which oversees Beacon Falls and Prospect schools. The Board of Education has approved a $37.3 million school budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The budget, which is going to a region meeting for a vote may 7, would increase Prospect’s net education cost $528,484 or 3.55 percent. The town’s current education cost is $14.9 million.

The largest increase in the town’s spending plan is the budget for Commission on Aging, an increase of $44,281 over this year’s $163,205, Chatfield said. That’s primarily due to a new part-time staff position at the senior center, an increase in the activity account and gas for two minibuses.

He said more people are using the senior center. The new staff position would be covered by two part-timers for 30 hours.

Senior Center Director Lucy Smegielski said the senior center has 1,000 active members, and 25 to 30 new members join monthly. Two age-restricted developments, The Regency at Prospect off Scott Road and Boulder Brook on Union City Road, have had a big part in increasing the numbers here, she said.

Chatfield said the second largest increase in the budget is for lease purchases, an increase of $35,685 over this year’s $120,201. That includes $27,501 for a roadside mower and $70,618 for a pumper truck.

Other highlights include an increase of $14,850 in the volunteer fire department’s budget for fuel, training and new pager radios over this year’s $252,500, and an increase in insurance of $21,443 over this year’s $201,889.

The Town Council on April 2 unanimously approved the plan, Town Council Chair Thomas Galvin said. He said he can definitely support this plan, and believes it continues the town’s frugal ways.

Last month, Chatfield presented a plan that only had an increase of $54,578, or 0.8 percent.

Galvin said the council added money to the budget for senior center staff and programming due to the increase in members.

He said the council made some other small reductions in the plan without sacrificing any services, such as reducing the request for the Pumpkin Festival from $6,000 to $4,000, an increase of $1,500 from this year’s $2,500.

The proposal also includes 2.5 percent pay raises for town employees, Chatfield said.

Elected officials do not receive pay raises during the time they are in office, he said. Those salary increases start after an election.

The spending plan includes raises for Town Clerk Carrie Anderson and Tax Collector Diane Lauber who were reelected in November.