Preliminary 2013-14 budget would see owner of ‘typical’ home pay $155 more in taxes

Blake

Mayor Ben Blake looks over budget documentation during a press conference Thursday at Milford City Hall.

Taxes would rise $155 on the typical Milford home next fiscal year based on a preliminary 2013-14 budget that Mayor Ben Blake presented to the press Thursday.

The proposal reflects an increase of 4.75% from $185.8 million in the current year to $194.63 million in 2013-14.

The mill rate would increase from 25.6 to 26.3, Blake said. The mill rate is the amount that a property owner pays for every $1,000 in assessed property.

“As presented, the finance director estimates that taxes will rise approximately 2.7%, or about $155 for a typical single family home (raised ranch) with a current year market value of $311,070,” the mayor said in a prepared release.

The plan has a way to go before there is a final budget. The Board of Finance will start going through the proposals next week, and then the Board of Aldermen will review the requests. A final budget won’t be adopted until May.

Blake said he hopes the tax increase will get a little lower as the process moves along. Finance board members and aldermen in past years have received updated federal and state financial information later in the budget process that made the final numbers a little rosier.

But Blake noted that this is a tough year due to several factors, and he thinks the projected tax increase is close to what residents will actually see.

The annual budget is a combination of school and city spending proposals. The Milford Board of Education has proposed an $88.87 million spending plan, which is a 2.29% increase over the current budget.

The mayor has proposed a city spending plan of $105.76 million, which is 6.9% more than the current city side of the budget. That portion of the budget includes some school related costs, too.

Major increases on the city side include rising health care costs, payments on bonds for about $90 million worth of sewer and other projects undertaken in 2008, and a $2.5 million contribution to the city’s pension plan.

“Anticipating these pressures, we have taken up a series of cost-cutting measures this past year to make Milford government more cost effective and to ease  those burdens which must be controlled,” Blake said.

Those cost-saving measures included refinancing previously issued bonds when interest rates were low, renegotiating the costs of the city’s health care administration and electricity supply contracts, he said.

The budget proposal does not include any new city positions, though there are plans for increased seasonal hours in the building department because of all the Hurricane Sandy-related renovation work going on along the shoreline.

City services stay intact, the mayor added.

While there has been plenty of talk about adding funding for school resource officers, which are police officers who work in the school system, the mayor’s budget does not include funding for such positions.

Blake said he wants to see first if funding can be secured from the federal government. If there are no federal funds and the city decides to add the officers, he said he will propose reducing staff elsewhere to compensate for the increase.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser has said she would like to hire four or five officers to serve the entire school system. Each officer would cost about $60,000.

The mayor’s budget plan calls for moving $5 million from the city’s fund reserve to offset taxes.

“This is a very, very difficult year,” the mayor said.

The Board of Finance will hold a public hearing on the city and school budgets Wednesday, Feb. 6, starting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The mayor’s proposed budget is expected to be on the city website at ci.milford.ct.us on Friday, Feb. 1, and details on the school board’s budget plan can be found at its website at milforded.org.

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