Finance board votes for modest tax decrease

Taxes for the typical homeowner will go down $11 next year under the Board of Finance budget plan, which was voted on Tuesday night.

The typical homeowner here in Milford is described as one owning a house with a market value of $311,070.

The 2018-19 budget isn’t final yet: The finance board vote was the second step in the process, a review of plans submitted by the mayor and Board of Education. The proposal still has to go through a Board of Aldermen review and vote.

But for now, the outlook is for that modest tax decrease.

During Tuesday’s meeting and vote, the finance board approved a budget of $210,193,398, up 2.14% from the current budget of $205,787,062. That figure represents allocations for the city and schools.

The mill rate drops slightly under the plan, from 27.79 mills to 27.74 mills.

The finance board reversed an attempt by the Board of Education to add money to the school superintendent's plan for the 2018-19 school year. Finance board members cut $361,500 from the Board of Education request, which was the amount the school board added to the school superintendent’s initial request, to fund additional building projects next school year.

That finance board reduction brought the school budget to $93,235,155, a 1.39% increase over the current year, which was what School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser initially requested.

Finance Board member Joseph Castignoli (D), who made the motion to cut the funds, said he thinks those projects can be held off a year or two.

The vote was 4-1, with Lauren Secondi (R) voting in opposition. Secondi said she didn’t think it was a good idea to put projects off. “I wish we could have gone with the full budget,” she said.

Chairman Brian Lema (D) said there were some good projects on that list, but he said given underlying issues at the state level, he thought cutting those from the budget was prudent.

The schools will get an addition school resource officer, however, something school officials have been trying to do for several years without success. The police department’s budget calls for converting one police officer to a school resource officer and adding a police dispatcher. Mayor Ben Blake said police officers sometimes have to cover dispatch, so adding a police dispatcher will allow for an officer to move to the school assignment.

There are four school resource officers now, one at each high school and two split between the three middle schools and The Academy. Under the new budget plan, there will be five school resource officers.

The finance board made a number of line item changes to the city spending plan, some based on updated financial information provided by Finance Director Peter Erodici, some made by reducing now-vacant or recently filled positions to entry-level pay grades. Between the city and school reductions, the finance board members shaved about $698,000 from the spending plan that was presented to them.

Blake said a healthier grand list than initially expected — about $28 million more than anticipated — will bring in about $785,000 more in taxes, also contributing to a budget that he said was much better coming out of the finance board meeting than it was going in.

Next the plan will move to the Board of Aldermen for review and a final vote.