Preston's financial forecast: 'fairly strong'

Preston - The town's financial outlook is "fairly strong" as officials work through details of the proposed 2014-15 town government budget, Finance Director Greg Schuyler told the Board of Finance Monday.

The board started a lengthy budget workshop session Monday reviewing the revenue picture for the coming year, anticipated grants and the current available town surplus prior to examining department budgets.

The proposed general government budget totaled $3.3 million that called for a 4 percent spending increase.

But with a healthy surplus of $2.6 million - 17 percent of the town's total annual expenses including the school budget - the finance board calculated it could use $600,000 of the surplus to avoid a tax increase and keep the tax rate at the current 23.93 mills.

This year, the Board of Finance budgeted to use $500,000 of the town surplus to keep taxes down, but Schuyler told the board Monday that unanticipated revenues to the town are expected to far exceed that amount, meaning the town won't need to dip into surplus.

Schuyler said for example, the town received a $225,000 state grant for security upgrades to the schools and an additional $208,000 in the Mohegan-Pequot grant. Other revenue also will top budget projections.

"The financial outlook for Preston right now is fairly strong," Schuyler said.

Using conservative estimates, the board projected local town revenues to remain mostly flat in the coming year, except for a $41,000 increase in the host town agreement payment owed to the town by Covanta Energy, which owns the Preston regional garbage incinerator. Covanta will pay the town $866,272 in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Local revenues are expected to total $1.1 million. State revenues to the town are expected to total $4.6 million, based on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget presented in early February.

At the request of the Conservation Commission, the finance board added $30,000 to the budget to start replenishing the town' open space fund. With two recent open space land purchases, the fund was totally depleted.

The finance board also created a $100,000 capital nonrecurring line item in the budget to cover unanticipated expenses that could arise next year. Members cited this year's hard winter and the breakdown of a plow truck as an example of the need for the line item.

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