City spending freeze aimed at holding on to funds for next year

Mayor Ben Blake recently initiated spending controls to help ensure a budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

“We are beyond the halfway point of the '13/'14 fiscal year and we have experienced many challenges,” Blake said in a memo to city employees Feb. 19.

“Unforeseen costs associated with this difficult winter have stretched both our operating budgets and reserve funds,” Blake added.

The mayor told employees that shortfalls in State grant revenue will have a negative impact on the current budget, and that next year’s budget will need more money for healthcare, pension and debt payments.

He said he met with Finance Director Peter Erodici and decided to “tap the brakes on spending.”

The mayor put a freeze on all new hires, including seasonal/temporary, and vacant positions will not be filled for the remainder of the fiscal year without approval of the mayor.

Various budget transfers have been frozen, and purchase requisitions must be approved by his office.

Out of state travel is frozen, and overtime must be used only in an emergency.

Budget numbers are looking a little gloomy right now, with the mill rate expected to jump 5.75% under the current 2014-15 spending plan. But Blake said he hopes the picture will get better before the budget process is over.

As the budget stands now, taxes will rise $329 on the typical Milford home with a market value of $311,070. For the typical homeowner, that’s an additional $27 a month.

The spending plan as proposed calls for transferring $2 million in undesignated funds to the 2014-15 budget to lower the tax rate. Blake said he put the brakes on spending last month to create a bigger surplus: That way the aldermen can consider transferring more than $2 million to next year’s budget.

“That is something that might be considered,” Blake said.

The city is still in the process of approving the budget for 2-14-15. Next, a public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at Milford City Hall. Departments will meet with the board in April, and the board votes in early May.