Milford will drop its tax rate for the sixth year in row, mayor says

MILFORD — The city’s tax rate will decrease for the sixth consecutive year, according to the mayor.

The 2021-22 city budget passed by the Board of Aldermen contained few modifications from the package approved by the Board of Finance in March, but did change the tax rate, from 27.67 mills to 27.65 mills.

“Milford’s mill rate, already lower than our neighboring communities, will be reduced even further to 27.65 mills, cutting taxes for all residents and businesses,” Mayor Ben Blake said.

The budget includes $221,899,661 in estimated revenues. The spending numbers are virtually identical to the Board of Finance-approved $221.89 million budget proposal, with the aldermen making their changes last month on the revenue side of the budget. Just under $100 million is allocated for the school system, the rest is for city departments.

“This 2021-22 budget builds on past successes and establishes a solid framework for yet another responsible fiscal year,” said Blake. “Milford has been able to prudently streamline its operations. This focus on efficiency has paid a dividend with Milford realizing tax cuts for residents and businesses for each of the past consecutive years.”

The aldermen made some small changes to allow a tax rate of 27.65. The finance board had approved a 27.67 mill tax rate. The aldermen reduced that number based on the projection that the city will receive about $1.4 million in state tax relief grants for the elderly and for veterans, and that the tax collection rate will be 97.85 percent.

The change means that a homeowner with a home valued at $300,000, with an assessment of $210,000, will pay about $5,806 in local property taxes next year, about $7 less than the current year.

Other changes on the revenue side included decreasing the anticipated Education Cost Sharing funds from $9.7 million to $9.48 million, and increasing two state grants by a total of about $180,000.

During the meeting last month, Chairman Philip Vetro, D-4, thanked everybody who was involved in the process of putting the budget together. He said each year the board has to do the hard work to understand the wants and needs of all the departments and the citizens of Milford. He said this year was challenging because of the pandemic.

“Despite these challenges, our board must adopt a prudent and responsible budget that yields the best result for the city,” he said.

Minority Leader Aldermen Anthony Giannattasio, R-1, said he was voting no on the budget because he considered the appropriated fund balance to be excessive.

“We are at record levels, and we are in the double digits spending $11 million of taxpayer money of the rainy day fund,” he said. “We should get back to the level that we were at before, which was $9 million.”

He said there are positions in the budget that are being funded that are not filled, and removing those positions from the budget would save $2 million, making the difference.

“It’s important to mention that we have all worked together in the past, and my intentions are to work closely with all of you moving forward,” he said. “However, under the circumstances of borrowing this type of money in this amount of $11 million, I just can’t go with that. I don’t think it’s being fiscally responsible for the future needs of the city.”

Blake said Milford has a total fund balance of $37 million, which is about three times what the local policy requires. The city also is expecting funds from the federal American Rescue Plan, which will allow more money to be allocated into the city’s fund balance.

The budget ultimately passed on an 8-6 vote along party lines, with Democrats Ellen Russel Beatty, Martin Hardiman, Gregory Harla, Michelle Parente, Frank Smith, Ward Willis, Anthony Sutton and Vetro voting in favor. Republicans Constance Gaynor, Giannattasio, Scott Marlow, Win Smith, James Tranquillli Jr. and Raymond Vitali opposed.