After reading the letters in The Berlin Citizen over the last few weeks, I think some clarity regarding this year’s budget decision by the Town Council will be helpful to the taxpayers of Berlin.
The majority position regarding taxes on the Town Council has always been consistent, and that is to minimize tax increases for our taxpayers while maintaining town services and providing for future capital projects.
This year the Board of Finance proposed an initial 1.60 mill rate increase which would have translated to a 5 percent tax increase.
This increase would have been be in addition to increases based on property re-evaluation.
After two referendum votes, and several meetings and discussions with the Board of Finance, the Town Council voted on the final budget.
The Republican majority listened to the voters and reduced the proposed tax increase almost in half, to a .89 mill rate increase.
Throughout the budget process the minority Town Council members and the Board of Finance consistently voted for higher tax increases that were unnecessary and would place a burden on Berlin taxpayers.
I wish we could have lived with a lower tax increase, but as I have stated in the past, over the last two years the major driver of our town budget has been the continued impact of $105 million of debt and the debt service payments that will continue to rise over the next 3-4 years.
Our independent auditor has advised the town that $105 million is an unhealthy level of debt as compared to our $87.9 million budget.
To be considered financially healthy the town’s debt should be about half our budget. Until we reach healthy debt levels we must continue to act responsibly and work to reduce our overall debt.
Further, included in the $105 million debt is unfunded pension liabilities that have been ignored by past councils.
Since the Republican majority took office, we have placed additional funds in the town pension fund to begin reaching a healthy account balance.
I also want to mention a positive direction for the future.
Berlin been very successful during the last two years regarding economic development. As an example, Forrest Machine, previously located in Rocky Hill, chose Berlin when they were looking to expand their facility. The addition of this manufacturing facility will add tax revenue to our town for the future. Also, during the past two years many other businesses either expanded or opened their doors in Berlin.
This economic growth along with the pay-down of our debt will help us over the next few years to stabilize our taxes and put more funding toward capital improvements.
As the mayor, along with the Republican majority on the Town Council, I am committed to the long-term vitality of our town and will continue to approve fiscally responsible budgets that serve the needs of all our residents.
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