Hundreds of new businesses to help Milford avoid tax increase for sixth year in a row

G-Mart, a new grocery store focusing on Asian foods, opened recently in Milford in the old Shop Rite space on Cherry Street.

G-Mart, a new grocery store focusing on Asian foods, opened recently in Milford in the old Shop Rite space on Cherry Street.

Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A steady influx of new businesses has Mayor Ben Blake optimistic that Milford residents will see a sixth straight year without a tax increase.

“A big part of our budgeting every year is going into the budget season with the ultimate goal of not increasing taxes,” Blake said, a week before the Board of Finance is scheduled to vote on his $121.2 million budget proposal for the 2021-22 fiscal year. That is about a 1 percent increase over the current year’s $120.1 million budget.

The school board has separately proposed a $99.7 million budget for 2021-22, a 2.25 percent increase over the current $97.5 million package. The two combined budgets total $220.9 million, about a 1.4 percent increase over the current combined $217.7 million for 2020-21.

Blake said the pandemic year had shown Milford’s strength.

Milford Mayor Ben Blake

Milford Mayor Ben Blake

File photo

“After a very long, strange, socially distant year, our city is now battle-tested by the unknown, and ready for new challenges that lie ahead,” he wrote in his budget letter. “Milford’s attention remains the well-being of our families and the health of our community as we lean on the expertise of medical professionals.”

And while the pandemic is far from over, Blake said the city would maintain its traditional conservative budgeting.

“This practice of conservative financial planning has paid dividends with Milford realizing tax cuts for residents and businesses for each of the past five consecutive years,” he said. “Milford taxpayers have experienced back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back decreases in the amount of local taxes due since 2017 — an unprecedented achievement, never before seen in Connecticut.”

The budget spreads the funding increases across most of the town departments. Some of the bigger-ticket items include $13.9 million for the Police Department, and $12.4 million for the Fire Department. These represent 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent raises from the current year.

The Public Service account, which includes the highway and parks departments, engineering, building maintenance and the city garage, had its annual budget reduced slightly in Blake’s proposal, from $11.99 million to $11.94 million, a reduction of just under 1 percent.

The budget line item for the mayor’s office increased $1,057 from 2020-21 to 2021-22, from $325,673 to $326,730.

Despite budgeting for $3.2 million more expenditures next year, Blake said alternate sources of income such as state and federal grants, and steady growth in the Grand List would cover the increased spending without increasing the tax burden on residents.

“We had a record number of new businesses relocate to Milford this year, in spite of the fact that we had a pandemic spreading across the world,” he said.

Milford also saw numerous new businesses open their doors, from a two-person cupcake shop to the G Mart, an Asian mega-market that recently opened in the old Shop Rite location on Cherry Street.

“There are 465 new businesses making Milford home compared to last year,” Blake said.

In handing his budget proposal over to the Board of Finance, Blake called it “a strong foundation” from which the finance board and Board of Aldermen could debate and discuss Milford’s future.

“This suggested financial plan holds spending increases to a minimum while preserving core municipal functions,” he said. “The recommendation also recognizes that while our Grand List continues to grow, we still face annual increases to cost drivers such as our pension contributions, salaries and health care.”