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Meriden City Manager Lawrence Kendzior

Meriden City Manager’s budget calls for tax increase

Proposed Meriden budget at a glance

Total spending: $185,431,614

Tax rate increase: .85 mills

Percentage increase: 2.92

Median home increase: $102/year

MERIDEN — The city budget proposed Monday by City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior calls for an increase in taxes as the result of increased health care costs and worker compensation expenditures. The $185.4 million budget would represent an increase of $5.3 million over last year’s budget.

Kendzior unveiled his budget proposal Monday, presenting it without much fanfare to the City Council. A more in-depth presentation is scheduled for tonight’s City Council Finance Committee meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Kendzior’s spending plan calls for a tax rate increase of .85 mills, which would equate to a tax increase of $102 per year for the owner of a median value single-family home. One mill is equal to $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Last year, there was a .29 mill increase, the equivalent of $29.58 for the average taxpayer.

“The proposed budget provides the funding necessary for those essential services that our residents and local business expect and deserve while maintaining the sound fiscal status the City has achieved,” Kendzior wrote in his budget message, addressed to Mayor Manny Santos and city councilors.

In the opening of the message, Kendzior addresses the budget’s “major issue” — health benefits and workers’ compensation expenditures. Kendzior explained that the two items combined will cost an additional $3,181,125, or the equivalent of one mill. Specifically, health care and workers’ compensation costs had been reduced in the current fiscal year based on paying for a portion of those through savings found two years ago. Funding for the costs had to be restored in the coming year’s budget and there was a “significant rise in the number of large claims in the past few years due to serious illnesses,” which contributed to the overall 2.92 percent increase in his proposal.

Also contributing to the expenditure side of the budget, which is proposed at $185,431,614, is an increase in contracted salaries. Citywide, salaries are expected to rise by $2.08 million.

Kendzior notes that some of the budget increase is offset by an increase in non-tax revenue, including an increase in state aid. The exact revenue from local taxes is not known, however, because the grand list has yet to be filed. The assessor’s office was granted an extension from its end-of-January deadline due to a staff shortage.

Kendzior is proposing no increase to the Board of Education budget of $103.7 million, despite the board’s request for an additional 1.8 percent in funding. Kendzior reasoned that the state has given the board “significant increases” in aid to Meriden schools including a planned increase of $1.8 million this year.

Kendzior’s budget would increase public safety funding by $375,000, which includes two part-time positions, a towing officer and a records clerk. The budget also increases Public Works funding in order to paint traffic safety lines.

In addition, there is a plan to increase the Law Department budget by $50,000 “due to matters that must be handled by outside counsel,” as well as the payment of deductibles from lawsuits brought against the city.

The Parks and Recreation Department budget would see an increase, specifically funding for the Fourth of July fireworks and the summer playground program. The program was cut out of last year’s budget and later restored through public and private funding.

Kendzior proposes eliminating the meals-on-wheels program, stating that it could “be better performed privately with less expense to the city.” The program, which would save the city $29,000 if cut, provides meals to local senior citizens.

City Council Minority Leader Dan Brunet said he reviewed the budget Monday and has some concerns about the health insurance costs. He added that he reviewed the .85 mill rate increase and hopes to have it lowered.

“Obviously that’s a starting point and we will see how much we can get that down,” Brunet said.

City Council Deputy Majority Leader Brian Daniels said he had yet to review the budget, but plans to do so before tonight’s Finance Committee meeting and looks forward to learning more from Kendzior. 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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