Mayor's budget plan comes with no tax increase

Mayor Ben Blake unveiled his spending plan for 2018-19 Thursday, a plan that he says keeps taxes status quo. The current tax rate is 27.79 mills, and the rate would stay the same under the 2018-19 spending plan.

The mayor’s portion of the budget calls for a spending increase from the current $113.83 million to $117.29 million, about a 3% hike.

The Board of Education has requested a budget of $93.59 million, a 1.786% increase over the current year’s budget.

Together, the two parts of the annual budget total about $210.88 million, which is $5.1 million, or 2.48%, more than the current $205.78 million budget.

The mayor said a healthy grand list, plus revenues including collection of more than $1 million in back taxes on a vacant Old Gate Lane property, are helping to hold taxes. His budget plan also calls for putting $6.2 million from the city’s reserve account into the spending plan to offset any tax increase.

Blake cautioned that taxes stay flat under the school superintendent’s initial plan, noting that the board voted to increase that request by $361,500 to fund additional building projects.

“This 2018-19 mayor’s budget strikes that delicate balance between services and funding as it lays the groundwork for another responsible fiscal year,” Blake says in his budget message published in the annual budget proposal.

The full budget proposal can be viewed online at

“This suggested financial plan holds spending increases to a minimum while preserving core municipal functions,” the mayor states. “The recommendation also recognizes potential revenue growth while accounting for the annual increase to cost drivers such as our pension contributions, salaries and health care.”

He said the plan does not have any marked changes over the current year. No layoffs are expected, but some positions have been eliminated, including a position from the sanitation department. That is due to the new automated trash pickup program, which lowers the number of people needed on the trucks from three to two.

The city side of the budget does not call for funding an additional school resource officer (SRO) in the city schools, and Mayor Blake anticipated that would generate discussion as the Board of Finance starts reviewing the spending plan.

And indeed the SRO was the topic of discussion at a public hearing Thursday evening, when a number of parents asked that the position be funded.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser requested another $40,000 in the 2018-19 school budget to pay for an additional school resource officer, but the addition won’t be made unless the city also allocates $40,000 for the position. There are four officers now, one at each high school and two split between the three middle schools and The Academy. The board has asked for an additional school resource officer for the past few years, but each time the city has not supported the idea by allocating $40,000 on the city side of the budget. The school board pays half the salary and the city the other half.

Next in the process

The finance board held its public hearing Thursday evening, giving residents a chance to comment on the plans. About 30 people attended, many asking the board to grant the full Board of Education request and to stay focused on library funding in coming years.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the finance board will review the Board of Education budget. That meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Parsons Complex.
On Monday, Feb. 12, the board will start reviewing city department requests. The meeting will also start at 5:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Parsons Complex.
The board has scheduled a technical discussion for Thursday, March 1, starting at 5:30 p.m., and a possible vote Wednesday, March 7. That meeting is also scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Parsons Complex.
After the finance board approves a budget plan, it moves along to the Board of Aldermen for a final review.