Aldermen adopt budget: No tax increase, and many spending reductions

This marks the second year in a row that Milford residents will see a slight tax reduction, based on the budget city leaders adopted this week.

Taxes for the typical Milford homeowner — someone with a house that has a market value of $311,070 — will go down about $11 next year with the 2017-18 city budget that the Board of Aldermen adopted Monday night.

The new budget is $205,787,062, and the new mill rate will be 27.79, down slightly from the current mill rate of 27.84.

But getting to the final figure was not an easy process.

The aldermen on Monday night shaved about $2.1 million off the spending plan that the Board of Finance had approved, in anticipation of reductions in money that will come from the state in the way of revenue.

Municipalities around the state are in the same boat, Mayor Ben Blake told the aldermen as they looked at cutting costs. Because of state budget problems, many municipalities face big cuts in state revenue.

The aldermen were going to cut about $684,000 from the Board of Education’s $92.3 million spending plan, but on a recommendation from Alderman Bryan Anderson (D) $342,000 was cut instead. Anderson tried to restore the entire $684,000, but that was rejected by a combination of Republicans and Democrats, who said that all city departments are making sacrifices this year.

Board of Education Chairman Susan Glennon was called to the podium to comment on what kind of impact a reduction would have.

Glennon said the budget put forward was conservative and represented what was needed to move education forward in Milford. But she also said that the school board understands the fiscal problems this year. “As educators, we make due with what we have,” Glennon said. She speculated that any reductions would first hit building and grounds projects, but couldn’t specify where the money would be taken from until the entire board meets to discuss it.

Proposed spending reductions came in a packet of cuts that Mayor Blake had prepared. Republicans on the Board of Aldermen weren’t happy from the outset of Monday’s meeting because they said the mayor had told them they would be presented with various spending cut options, including 2, 3 and 5 percent reduction options, and then a chance to ask questions about those plans.

“We were supposed to see alternatives, and the vote was scheduled for the 25th,” said Minority Leader Anthony Giannattasio (R).

But Blake said he and Finance Director Peter Erodici went through the different options and determined which level of cuts needed to be made.

Blake had asked all city departments to submit alternate budget plans that showed cuts of 2, 3 and 5 percent. Most of the city department heads were at Monday night’s meeting in case they needed to answer questions from the aldermen about their alternate spending plans.

In addition to the school board, the aldermen also restored money that was scheduled to be cut from the Beth El Shelter and the Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut. The Beth El Shelter was set to go from an $85,000 grant to $80,000, but that was restored to $85,000; and the Literacy Volunteers were to go from $5,000 to $3,500, but that was restored to $5,000.

Still, there are many reductions throughout the spending plan, affecting many departments and groups throughout the city.

Blake said there will be “some pain” across the city departments, “but we will still have the same city services.”

He pointed out that this is the second year in a row for a tax reduction in Milford, something he said is worth taking note of in light of the state budget crisis.

Alderman Nick Veccharelli (D) also praised the final budget, saying, “I didn’t think we’d be able to do this without laying people off.”

Republicans voted against the budget, some arguing that when the final state budget dollars are known, Milford officials might have to return to the spending plan and find even more areas to cut expenses.

“We should get more serious about what we’re doing and how we do it,” Giannattasio said.