Mayor: Milford mill rate drop may not mean tax cuts for all

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — The city’s mill rate is proposed to drop for the seventh consecutive year, but that may not mean everyone enjoys a tax cut as in year’s past, according to Mayor Ben Blake.

The Board of Finance, at its meeting Thursday, set a recommended 2022-23 budget of roughly $242 million — a $20 million hike from the present fiscal year — which now goes before the Board of Aldermen for hearings and a final vote.

If approved, the mill rate would be set at 27.18, a decrease of 0.47 mills from this year’s budget. But Blake said his plan is the mill rate will be adjusted down even further — hopefully, he says, in the 26s — before the 2022-23 budget is finalized.

“The good news is that our grand list has grown by more than $1 billion this past year and our mill rate will continue in its downward direction,” Blake said.

Blake said the grand list hike is a combination of the continued commercial and residential growth and the recent state-mandated property revaluation.

“Unlike the 2016 revaluation where property assessments remained substantially flat, the 2021 revaluation significantly transformed valuations throughout the city,” Blake said. “Consistent with local real estate trends, certain residential and commercial appraisals soared in 2021 while other parcel prices dipped.

"Given these recent adjustments, many in our community will continue to experience tax reductions, some residents’ and business’ tax bills will remain flat, and others will see an increase in the annual amount due,” Blake added.

The Board of Finance sent the Board of Aldermen a recommended budget with $140,138,347 on the city side, with $102,008,319 for education. Blake said the finance board left the school board side untouched from its original request. The education budget makes up 65 percent of the total city budget, Blake said.

A main driver of the city budget, according to Blake, is health insurance, with a $11 million hike in its projected costs for the coming year.

Blake said the city is self-insured, and its consultants have estimated this “massive growth” with more people — city and Board of Education employees and dependents — using the health insurance plan.

“Over the next month and a half, we will be working with the health insurance consultants to see what we can do, and we will look to find other funding mechanisms,” Blake said, noting “$11 million is a big number.”

Blake said the proposed 2022-23 budget includes a host of challenges, including upticks in contractual wages and increases in pension contributions.

“By working with our departments and stakeholders to identify budget improvements while streamlining expenditures and preserving critical services,” Blake said, “we will confront these fiscal pressures and continue our trajectory as an affordable, thriving community.”

Blake said the city’s cost-cautious approach over the past few years has helped keep taxes in check but not at the expense of city services.

“Our cost-conscious philosophy has not only saved Milford money but enhanced the services we provide our citizens,” Blake said. “It is through these types of strategies that the city has been financially able to take on projects that make our community more attractive.

“From paving more miles of street than ever before, to making Milford a more walk-able and bike-able town, to building new world-class recreational facilities, to creating more downtown parking, we have been able to do more and invest more in improvements,” Blake added.