Budget news: Mayor says taxes may go down

Although Milford’s budget plan for 2017-18 includes about $3.7 million more in spending than the current year’s plan, Mayor Ben Blake said he expects taxes will not increase, and may even go down.

The current city budget is $204,464,623. The plan for the next budget year so far calls for spending $208,178,608, a 1.8% increase.

Of that, the Board of Education accounts for $92,336,582  and the city portion is $115,842,026.

Even though expenditures increase, largely due to salaries, pensions, debt service, certain health care premiums and workers’ compensation and heart and hypertension coverage, Mayor Ben Blake said booming construction in the city will bring in more revenue in 2017-18, covering any spending increases.

“Last year we had more than $100 million in new construction,” Blake said.

The city assessor has not yet completed the grand list, which is a compilation of the taxable property in the city, but Blake said all indications are that there will be sizeable growth on the commercial and industrial side of the grand list.

“Milford is in the midst of an economic renaissance with an explosion of new businesses moving into town,” Blake said. “Our business development significantly outpaces all other Connecticut towns and our commercial spaces have an impressive 96% occupancy rate.”

Blake said streamlined expenses, plus new revenue sources, including funds generated when the city took over ambulance service and billing from AMR, will help make a tax cut possible.

The 2017-18 city budget plan eliminates three jobs in the public works department, in response to the new automated garbage system that requires fewer people be on a garbage truck. There used to be three to four people on each truck: Now there are two, and eventually that will be reduced to one person.

The 2016-17 resulted in a tax reduction of about $9 for the typical homeowner, so if taxes go down again, it will be the second year in a row.

Blake cautioned, however, that as the Board of FInance and Board of Aldermen review and vote on the budget plan, they will have to take into account possible unexpected state cuts to funding that is delivered to Milford.
School budget
The Board of Education approved its portion of the plan recently, agreeing on a budget that marks a 0.791% increase over the current year and is “the lowest budget increase in 15 years,” School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser has said.

The school spending plan calls for several new initiatives, including a more robust robotics program in the middle schools and an entrepreneurship and business management program in the high schools.

New spending, Feser said earlier in the budget process, will be offset by reductions, including the elimination of 10 regular teaching positions, 4.4 special education teaching positions and three paraprofessional positions.
Budget hearing
The Milford Board of Finance will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 budget Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at Milford City Hall.

This is a chance for residents to come out and speak about the city and schools’ budget plans for 2017-18.