CHESTER— Voters at the May 21 annual budget meeting will consider a proposed $12.32 million spending plan for 2013-2014 that includes an unusual one-half mill decrease in the town’s property tax rate. The meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the new community meeting room on the second floor of town hall.
First Selectman Edmund Meehan said there have been no changes to the budget that was presented to a handful of residents at the May 1 public hearing. The total $12,328,940 spending plan, which is $419,141 less than current spending, includes the $3,515,054 town government budget, a $373,620 capital expenditure plan, a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester Elementary School, and the town’s $4,257,893 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 education budget was approved by voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 7 referendum.
Education spending in the proposed budget is down by $467,000 because a declining enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending the two Region 4 secondary schools, Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The decrease in enrollment has led to a $426,084 reduction in the Chester share of the Region 4 budget.
Meehan has described the proposed 2013-2014 budget as “an anomaly” that is unlikely to be repeated in future budget years. The enrollment-driver reduction in education spending has allowed the board of finance to recommend a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate, from the current 22.45 mills to a tax rate of 21.95 mills. The new rate represents $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Unlike many past years, the board of finance has found no need to transfer funds from the town’s undesignated fund balance as a way to hold down taxes. The fund balance is projected to total $1.57 million when the budget year ends on June 30, 2014.