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Finance board suggests changes to budgets

SHARON — In a Board of Finance budget workshop on Wednesday, March 23, the board reviewed the budget proposals that had been presented on Tuesday, March 15, by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education. The bottom line of the selectmen’s budget before it was changed by the Board of Finance was $2,930,360, and the bottom line of the Board of Education budget was $3,694,340, or $6,332,602 with the addition of Sharon’s portion of the Region One budget. Sharon is one of the only towns in the state where the Board of Finance can make direct and specific changes to the municipal budget. It is not allowed, however, to make changes to the education budget.At the budget workshop, the Board of Finance made the decision to request that the Board of Education reduce its bottom line by $55,000. However, the board is anticipating a surplus at the end of this budget year of $60,000; the finance board suggested that $30,000 of that can be applied toward the $55,000 cut. Selectmen’s budgetA major change made to the municipal budget at the workshop was the addition of $110,450 of debt service for the the purchase of land for the new transfer station. The amount of interest that needed to be paid was not available at the time of the presentation of the working budget to the Board of Finance, according to First Selectman Bob Loucks, which is why it needed to be added in during the March 23 workshop. A change was also made to this year’s budget bottom line to reflect the extra $82,000 that had beeen appropriated for road salt this winter.The selectmen’s budget proposes that all Town Hall employees, except selectmen, get 2 percent pay raises. In the last draft proposal, the pay increases had been listed as 1.5 percent. Board of Finance Chairman Barbara Prindle said the increase was an act of “goodwill.” Also notable in the budget proposal is a reduction in the line item for litigation counsel, down $39,000 from last year’s $40,000. This leaves only $1,000 in the line item for litigation counsel. First Selectman Bob Loucks said that next year the legal fees for lawsuits against the town will be covered by the town’s insurance. If a lawsuit does come up during the 2011-12 fiscal year that is not covered by the town’s insurance, the Board of Selectmen will request additional funds. Insurance for the town will increase $62,001, making the total dollar amount $183,279. This rise accounts for an increase in the workers’ compensation rates and to account for pending lawsuits. Loucks would not say what the pending lawsuits were, but said that they relate to Joray Road. He would not comment further. Reductions in the 2011-12 budget proposal include $20,000 for Social Security and Medicare and a $5,000 reduction in the budget for the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon, which is doing more of its own fundraising. As of March 29, the bottom line for the selectmen’s budget proposal was $3,557,300, a $675 increase over this year’s budget. The Board of Finance met for a second budget workshop on Tuesday evening, March 29, after The Lakeville Journal went to press.

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