December 12, 2019

Chester Budget With Unusual Tax Decrease Goes to May 1 Public Hearing

CHESTER— A proposed $3,852,474 town government budget and a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester  Elementary School go to a public hearing Wednesday in the newly finished community room at town hall. The session begins at 7:30 p.m.

In what First Selectman Edmund Meehan describes as “a one-time anomaly,” reduced spending for both the elementary school and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget will allow a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate with no transfers from the undesignated fund balance. The planned reduction, from the current tax rate of 22.45 mills to  21.95 mills, would represent a property tax cut of about $150 on a house assessed at $300,000. The planned tax rate for 2013-2014 would represent $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last year, the selectmen and finance board approved a transfer of $174,641 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to hold the tax rate at 22.45 mills.  Meehan said no transfers from the fund balance were needed to cover this year’s one-half mill cut in the tax rate, with the undesignated fund balance expected to total about $1.57 million in June 2014.

The net spending decrease of about $420,000 includes a $41,527 decrease in the elementary school budget, and a $426,084 decrease in the town’s share of the Region 4 budget. The reduced spending for education results from decreased enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.
The town government budget is up by about $47,000 from the current appropriation. The $3.85 million town government budget includes a 2.25 percent wage/salary increase for union and non-union town employees, including elected officials, and additional spending for medical insurance and the town employee pension fund. There is also an additional $6,500 for winter snow removal expenses.

Wednesday’s public hearing will be the first major municipal meeting in the community meeting room at town hall that was part of the second floor renovations that Meehan describes as “95 percent complete.”

The town hall second floor renovation project that began in February was funded by the insurance settlement from the February 2011 collapse of the former community center building on Route 154. The new community room at town hall will now host most town meetings that were previously held at the historic Chester Meeting House on Liberty St.

The annual budget meeting vote on a town/elementary school spending plan for 2013-2014 is set for Tuesday May 21 at the town hall community room. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in an eight-hour referendum on May 7.