The Board of Finance began scrutinizing a $143 million budget this week, which represents a 3.62 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year.

If approved as is, the town's mill rate of taxation would be 16.557, an increase over the rate of 15.542 in place during the current year. The mill rate references the dollar amount of taxes per $1,000 of property value.

The Board of Finance began the process of measuring department budgets for Human Services, Public Works and general government departments on Tuesday night.

The initial human services budget request calls for $156,500 to support a variety of organizations, and maintains level funding of $52,000 for Kids in Crisis and $46,000 for Getabout, which provides rides to seniors and those with special needs.

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and board members discussed vetting how the more than $350,000 in tax dollars spent through human services and nonprofit agencies to assist youth translates into services.

The town's contribution through the Human Services Department to the Outback Teen Center would be reduced 5 percent to $19,000 under the budget. In recent years, town officials and residents have debated intensely the need of the 14-year-old center as the network of youth services in town has become more crowded.

"This is huge and it is hard to believe we are up to $375,000," Board of Finance member Judy Neville said of the growth in youth support services. "This is a lot compared to where we were."

The New Canaan Police Department's operating budget would increase 3.30 percent to $5.8 million, in part due to the salary impact of the addition of two full-time police officers increasing the size of the department from 50 to 52.

The Department of Public Works is asking for $5 million in capital spending for paving, and also is including $450,000 to preserve pavement and repair parking lots, and another $125,000 to upgrade sidewalks on Park Street between Elm and Cherry streets near Starbucks Coffee and Radio Shack, officials said.

Another looming financial question the town must answer is whether it will invest $2.1 million to rescue the New Canaan Playhouse on Elm Street, which was built more than 90 years ago.

Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann said the cost represents 39 improvements needed to revamp the building to modern standards, including $1.1 million to improve accessibility and $550,000 to refurbish the brick exterior of the building.

The town bought the playhouse nearly a decade ago for $2.3 million in part to keep a movie theater in the downtown center.

Mallozzi said the town needs to form a working group of finance board members, selectmen, and others to evaluate the town's choices between saving the building or selling it.

"The last thing you want to do is drain the coffers if it isn't a good return on investment," Mallozzi said. "We really need to flesh this out because it is a major investment."

The Board of Finance was expected to meet again Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at the New Canaan Nature Center, 144 Oenoke Ridge Road, to discuss budget proposals for the library, and the police, emergency management, fire, and recreational departments.