May 24, 2022

Chester Sets May 1 Public Hearing on Proposed $8 Million Town/Elementary School Spending Plan

CHESTER— The 2012-2013 budget plans for town government and Chester Elementary School will be presented at the annual budget hearing on May 1 at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m.

The town government budget totals $3,411,243, and is combined with a $446,961 capital expenditure plan. The town government budget is up by $87,525, or 2.63 percent, over current spending. The capital expenditure plan, which had been reduced for this year’s budget, would increase by $101,961 in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposed $4,205,900 budget for the elementary school is up by $41,831, or one percent, over the current appropriation for the elementary school.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, preparing the his first budget since winning election to the top job last November, said the major drivers for the town government budget are funding for anticipated higher fuel oil and gasoline expenses, and a two percent wage/salary increase for all town employees, including elected officials. The two percent pay increase matches the increase awarded to the eight town employees in the American Federation of State, county, and Municipal employees (AFSCME) bargaining unit. The contract extends to 2017-2018, when the pay increase for union employees would be three percent.

The proposed capital expenditure plan includes $303,961 for road repairs, $50,000 toward replacement of the firehouse roof, $50,000 toward the planned replacement of a 1988 fire truck, $18,000 for roof repairs at the elementary school, and $25,000 for the town hall space/needs study.

Meehan said one issue that is likely to be discussed at the hearing is the board of finance directive for a $20,000 cut in the elementary school budget. Meehan said the finance board recommended the cut based on declining enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school. Enrollment is projected to be at around 256 students this September.

The finance board has recommended a transfer of $174,641 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to limit the required increase in the property tax rate to .34 mills. The current tax rate is 22.11 mills, with the proposed 2012-2013 rate at 22.45 mills, or $22.45 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. The transfer would leave about $1.34 million in the fund balance as of June 30, 2013.

The town government and elementary school budgets are combined with Chester’s $4,683,977 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total 2012-2013 spending levy of $12,748,081. The Chester share of the region 4 budget is down by $39,000 because of fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.

The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m . referendum on May 8. The annual budget meeting vote on the town/elementary school budget plan is set for Tuesday May 15 at 7 :30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.