Mayor Blake presents budget plan: Finance board hearing is Wednesday

Taxes on the typical Milford home with a market value of $250,000 will rise $263 next year under the current 2014-15 budget proposal, which Mayor Ben Blake said comes with a number of unavoidable spending increases.

Blake released his 2014-15 budget proposal this week. It calls for a combined city and school spending package of $199.3 million, which is $5.26 million more than the current spending plan. That represents a 2.71% increase.

The next step major step in the budget process is Wednesday, Feb. 5, when the Board of Finance holds its budget hearings. Residents can come out and speak about the city and school budget plans.

The hearing takes place at 7 p.m. at Milford City Hall.

The city’s budget proposal maintains and preserves the core city services the people of Milford have come to expect while meeting its obligations to taxpayers, Blake said in a prepared statement.

“I’d like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our department heads as well as our finance director, Peter Erodici; my sincere thanks to each of them for their partnership and commitment to our city,” Blake said. “Together we were able to confront a difficult economy intensified by significant pressures in our pension, health care and debt service.”

According to Blake, “Even before looking at department budgets, we came into this financial cycle with a formidable challenge: Hold down taxes amidst rising contractual obligations.”

In the upcoming fiscal year, Milford’s actuaries suggest a considerable pension contribution based on the decline in pension assets during the 2008-2009, Blake said.

“Moreover, the city’s debt service has grown with the recent completion of past capital projects —  notably, $95 million in major sewage treatment plant upgrades,” Blake said.

Most significant, however, is the ever-rising cost of health care, which he said has caused annual health insurance contributions to continue to escalate.

The mayor’s proposal funds no additional personnel or programs, and without those required budgetary increases — pension contribution at $2 million; debt service at $1 million; health care at $1 million; and contractual wages at $1 million — the budget would essentially represent a “flat” or “zero percent” spending increase, he said.

The mayor said the city continues to identify new and expanded, non-taxpayer revenue streams to offset rising costs. For example, the city now generates $300,000 annually by billing its EMS services, and has brought in another $100,000 in yearly income with the consolidation of emergency dispatch.

“While the boards of finance and aldermen will continue to adjust and revise the FY 14/15 budget before formal adoption, the current proposal, inclusive of the present Board of Education request, will result in a relatively minimal tax change from the prior year,” Blake said.

The school superintendent’s proposal is for $89.51 million, and it marks an increase of $670,000 over the current year’s budget, which is less than a 1% increase.

The current mill rate is 26.28. As the budget moves through the process city officials will set the new mill rate.