Milford budget vote Monday

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — With the final vote of the city budget nearing for the Milford Board of Aldermen, here are the top items on the 2022-23 city budget.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be live-streamed on the MGAT YouTube Channel.

The proposed city budget is $242.1 million, an increase of just over $10 million from the current $221.8 million package. If approved, the mill rate for the city will be 27.18, a slight decrease from the current 27.65.

“Milford taxpayers have now experienced six consecutive decreases in the amount of local taxes due,” said Mayor Ben Blake in a statement. “No other town in the state can boast this accomplishment.”

One of the top items in the budget is the Milford Police Department. The board of finance and mayor both recommend $13.9 million. The department had requested $15.2 million, driven in part by a desire to boost the number of officers.

Chief Keith Mello’s requested budget included hiring four officers, at a cost of just over $254,000. Blake and the city finance board both recommended not funding those positions.

“Four police officers translates to just shy of one police officer per shift,” said Mello. “It is a long-term solution. If it was approved, we would start in July with recruiting, and we would do the selection process.”

One of the requests made to the board of aldermen by the police commission is to raise the salaries of Mello and Deputy Chief Brian Rojee and bring them to the state average.

Mello and Rojee presently earn $124,767 and $110,215, respectively.

The average base salary in Connecticut for a police chief is $146,800 and around $126,000 for a deputy chief, said Police Commission Chair Richard Smith.

“If we were to lose him, it would cost the taxpayers of Milford another $100,000 a year to replace him when you factor in salary, pension and benefits,” said Smith. “For the board of alderman not to follow the advice of the commission, whose job it is to represent the people of Milford on matters concerning the Milford Police Department, would be irresponsible and costly to the taxpayers of Milford.”

Smith said he has no reason to think Mello would leave if he isn’t given the increase.

“Giving it to him is not because we are threatened of him leaving, he certainly could leave, but because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Accounting for $102 million of the total 2022-23 Milford budget is the education department, an increase of $2 million from the school board’s current $99.7 million.

When aldermen hosted a public hearing on the board of finance’s recommended 2022-23 budget focusing on education, community members came out to voice their support.

Roughly 71 percent of the school budget is allocated towards salaries. Superintendent Anna Cutaia said the contracted salaries and benefits added $1.9 million to the budget before even looking at supplies and programs.

Other reasons for the increase is the need to add four classroom teachers to respond to class size guidelines, new electives offered at the high schools, an increase in fuel costs, an increase in life and health insurance and more.

Other top items in the 2022-23 budget are the Milford Fire Department at $13 million, employee benefits at $36 million, sewer department at $9 million and wastewater at $7 million.