Town departments completed the presentation of their budget requests Thursday, moving the deliberations on the 2013-14 Bethel municipal budget into the next phase.
Finance Director Robert Kozlowski said the Board of Selectmen will review the budget requests next week and make a recommendation for the Board of Finance to review the week after that.
Both boards were present Thursday for the last of four meetings with department heads.
According to Kozlowski, the proposed 2013-14 Bethel budget currently stands at $67,722,655, an increase of $2,495,928 over the current year’s $65,226,727 budget.
That would be an increase of about 3.8 percent if approved, but Kozlowski cautioned that the budget process is at a preliminary stage and the figures would probably change.
First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker and Kozlowski reported to the other officials that the ongoing property assessment revaluation would result in a reduction of the Grand List, the total value of all taxable property in town, of almost $500 million, from $2.34 billion to $1.853 billion.
Kozlowski told Patch that the preliminary budget, if approved would result in a property tax rate of 31.72 mills. The sharp rise from the current 24.07 mills is due to the revaluation, he said.
Also, the state Legislature is considering a proposal to end taxes on motor vehicles. If that is passed, Kozlowski and Knickerbocker said the mill rate would have to go up to 34.32 for the tax year starting in July.
Other budget factors
Kozlowski reported that the town could expect about $40,000 in savings in its utility budget next year because of the conversion of all town schools to natural gas heat.
An increase in natural gas production national has resulted in a drop in price, and town taxpayers will benefit from it.
He said electricity prices are stable. Gasoline prices have risen lately, wiping out a modest saving town officials were hoping to realize.
Knickerbocker said the town is seeking bids on employee insurance benefits and workers compensation insurance, hoping to limit expected cost increases in both.
He said he the increase for health insurance premiums was projected at 11 percent, and new bids might reduce that. Other towns were facing increases of 25 percent or more, he noted.
Workers compensation costs have risen sharply over the last three years, from about $170,000 to nearly $600,000 last year, because of a number of expensive claims, especially by police officers.
Knickerbocker said one officer suffered tears in both shoulders in a struggle with an intoxicated 280-pound man, and another officer was hit by a car during a drug investigation.
“We’re working to bring it down,” he said, adding that he was disappointed because the town hasn’t benefited from its favorable claims history so far this year. That was why he wanted to go out to bid, he said.