CHESTER – About twenty residents attended a public hearing where Board of Finance and Board of Education officials discussed details of a proposed $11.5 million budget.
Town government expenditures made up $3.61 million or 31.39 percent while capital expenditures cost $118,500, or 1.03 percent.
Town expenditures are $125,557, or 3.36 percent, less than last year while capital expenditures are $30,688, or 20.57 percent, less than last year.
Over half of the 2007/08 budget is allocated for education with Chester Elementary School receiving $3.91 million or 34 percent of the budget while the town’s share of the Region 4 budget is $3.86 million, which is 33.58 percent of the budget.
Chester Elementary School spending increased by $185,930, or 4.99 percent, over last year while Region 4 spending increased by $350,460, or 9.98 percent, over last year.
“The increase in participation in Region 4 hit us 10 percent even though Region 4 spending only increased by five percent. We expected the increase,” Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh said.
Expenses of the Region 4 budget is divided among the three participating towns, which include Chester, Deep River, and Essex, based on average daily enrollment.
Kim Caron, Superintendent of Region 4 Schools, said the biggest increases that occurred in the Region 4 budget came as the result of a new sixth grade teacher, teacher and administration salaries, and a new union contract.
Despite increased spending in education, Board of Finance member Kim Just said Chester benefited from a 1.9 percent increase in the grand list over the past year which generated $215,000 of revenue.
The board allocated $253,837 from the unallocated fund balance; Just said, meaning the mill rate would only need to be increased by 0.75 mills.
Currently, Chester’s mill rate is 22.37 mills and the increase of 0.75 mills would mean a total of 23.12 mills, or $23.12 in taxes for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
For a resident who has a home assessed at $100,000, the mill rate increase would mean an additional $75 in annual taxes.
This would still allow the fund balance to have $1.33 million on June 30, 2008, which is the last day of the 2007-08 fiscal year.
Borrowing money from that fund to offset tax increases is a “practice we are trying to move away from,” Just said.
One year that the town relied heavily on using savings to offset tax increases was the 2004/05 fiscal year when approximately $875,000 was allocated.
Marsh warned residents that proposed state budgets from both Governor Rell and the Connecticut State Legislature call for less state aid to towns like Chester.
The reduction in state aid comes at a time when the state expects to receive additional revenue if specific proposals are approved such as creating a sales tax on all clothing items and items bought by Connecticut residents over the Internet, Marsh said.