Council approves town budget

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — The Town Council last week unanimously adopted a $9.1 municipal budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The town’s budget, which is about $329,000 less than the budget proposal Mayor Robert Chatfield recommended to the council in early March, increases municipal spending by $6,445 over the 2019-20 budget.

Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said the council worked relentlessly on the town budget.

“I think we did a great job with it,” he said.

The council adopted the budget this year, since the state waived in-person voting requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Combined with Prospect’s share of the school budget for Region 16, which is comprised of Prospect and Beacon Falls, the town’s total operating budget for 2020-21 is $34.5 million.

The council is expected to set the 2020-21 tax rate at its meeting Tuesday. How the budget will impact the tax rate is unclear.

The council last week also unanimously approved bonding $900,000 — $785,000 for road improvements and $115,000 for radio repeaters for the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department to improve signal strength and public safety communication in town. The first payment on the bond will be due in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

One of the biggest changes in the municipal budget came in the police budget. The town plans to share a resident state trooper with Bethany starting in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which cut Prospect’s cost for the resident state trooper program in half to $105,337.

The police budget also designates $3,259 for a new police K-9. Prospect police Officer Tory Marsden, who was a certified K-9 officer and instructor for the state police, was in training at the Connecticut State Police K-9 academy with a German Shepard he bought, according to officials. The training was expected to finish early this month.

While officials said Chatfield has the authority to approve a K-9 officer, the addition of the K-9 was a point of contention during budget workshops as council members raised issues about not receiving information about the K-9 or the costs associated with it.

Chatfield previously said the plan was to pay for the K-9 program from revenue the town gets for private duty police work.

The council received a proposal from Administrative Lt. Nelson Abarzua before its May 14 workshop that estimated the cost of the program at $3,259. Though some on the council felt the program could cost more than that, the council agreed to move money from the budget for police officers for the K-9 program.