Milford adopts budget: Taxes will go down slightly

The city’s mill rate will go down slightly, from 27.88 to 27.84 with the approved 2016-17 budget, meaning that a “typical” homeowner with a home that has a market value of $311,070 will see taxes go down $9 next year.

The Board of Aldermen approved the new budget last Thursday night after about four hours of debate, preceded by weeks of meetings with individual department heads.

The new spending plan marks an increase of 1.13%, from $202,180,672 to $204,464,623.

Mayor Ben Blake is calling the tax decrease historic, saying it is only the second time in the last 30 years that taxes have gone down.

“We have reduced the costs of operations through thrift,” Blake said. “In spite of health care costs, pension contributions, debt service, and contractual wage obligations, Milford has worked hard to mitigate our liabilities while expanding the funding side of the budget with new, non-taxpayer sources of revenue.”

The 1.13% spending increase did not result in a tax increase largely because of additional state revenues for 2016-17. While the city did not get as much as initially expected when the budget process started, and while there were reductions to some state grants, the city expects to get about $1.6 million more in state funds than in 2015-16. A large part of that is in property tax relief, which is a first-time state allocation.

Also, the aldermen agreed to transfer $3.5 million from the fund balance, which stands at about $25 million.

Blake said refinancing city bonds also helped make up for a $1.1-million shortfall between what the city initially expected to get from the state and what it appears the governor will approve.
Final budget debate
Two attempts to add money to the Board of Education allocation failed last Thursday night, so the Board of Finance-recommended allocation for the school board will remain as is. The finance board approved an allocation of $91,611,950 for the school board, which is $175,000 less than the school board asked for.

Alderman Susan Shaw, Democrat, made a motion to restore the $175,000, saying the school board proposal was “unanimous” and represented a “negligible increase.”

“I think it was a wrong decision on their part,” she said of the finance board’s vote to cut the request.

Shaw’s motion failed, with Republicans countering that these are tough economic times and that anticipated state revenue was less than expected.

Alderman Bryan Anderson, Democrat, then suggested that $40,000 be added to the Board of Education budget to cover the creation of a language lab at Harborside Middle School to bring it in line with the other middle schools, but that, too, failed, by a vote of 8-7. While those in favor of adding funds outnumbered those opposed, a two-thirds vote by the aldermen is needed to add money to the budget request, so the attempts failed.

Republican Alderman Anthony Giannattasio attempted to remove about $55,000 from the budget that pays for the city’s open space manager, suggesting the salary could be funded through open space line items, as had been done in the past. Finance Director Peter Erodici reminded the aldermen that those open space accounts have very little money in them now because the city voted to use them to buy a parcel of land on North Street.

The majority of the aldermen voted to leave the open space manager’s salary in the budget. Democrat Nick Veccharelli pointed out, “The amount of money [the open space manager] has brought in grants is unbelievable.”

The aldermen voted to add $10,000 to the allocation for Bridges, the local mental health agency, and to create a new allocation of $3,500 for the Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut. Those two additions to the budget actually failed the first time around, but in a relatively rare move, the aldermen revisited them and voted to approve the funding.