Meriden city manager releases proposed tax rate over 40 mills

Meriden city manager releases proposed tax rate over 40 mills

Record-Journal
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FILE PHOTO: Meriden City Manager Guy Scaife listens as resident speaks during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. | Richie Rathsack, Record-Journal

MERIDEN — The most recent budget estimate will require increasing the mill rate to at least 40.21 mills after the addition of $3.5 million in expenses not calculated into the original budget proposal released in March, according to City Manager Guy Scaife.

The updated $194.67 million spending plan constitutes a 2.1 percent increase over the current year’s budget and will be voted on by the Finance Committee next week before going to the full City Council the first week in May.

Scaife has previously said his goal was to hold spending as flat as possible and the initial $191.21 million spending plan released in March constituted a .28 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The latest figures add roughly $3.5 million to that figure, bringing his budget up to $194.67 million.

Factored into the increase is a $1.6 million increase in pension payments, an anticipated increase in water and sewer costs and an error in the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget, which mistakenly cut $130,000 for part time seasonal employees.

Fixed increases for the city total $4.8 million and include a $1.9 million increase in debt service and $1 million in contractual increases.

However, other factors are still yet to be calculated, including the city’s health care costs, Scaife said.

“We are working on that now and I’m hoping to have those numbers out by Monday, Tuesday,” Scaife said Thursday.

The current mill rate is 37.47 mills in the outer district and 39.7 mills in the inner district. One mill is equal to $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value. Due to last year’s state-mandated property revaluation, the value of residential city properties decreased 7 percent on average.

In order to generate the revenue needed to support the budget, the mill rate will need to increase to between 40.21 mills and 40.5 mills depending on if the state legislature votes to implement a cap on motor vehicle taxes, Scaife said.

“If you bring in less money on vehicles that means you have to raise money on property to offset it and that’s why the mill rate could go up if the state pushes through on putting a cap on the mill rate for vehicles,” Scaife said.

Scaife did not include a mill rate with his initial budget. City Finance Director Michael Lupkas said last month that the mill rate cannot be calculated “until you have a finalized budget or a budget that is very close to finalized.”

The city has held two public hearings for residents to voice their concerns on the budget.

As of Thursday afternoon, the proposed mill rate increase had not been shared with the City Council.

Finance Committee Chairman Miguel Castro, a Democrat, said he would have liked to know the proposed rate sooner.

“I would have preferred, as the practice has always been, to have a mill rate from the original proposed budget including the numbers that we are including on this latest revised budget,” Castro said. “But since we are still moving and it’s a moving target, it is after we determine exactly where we are at with the budget that we can determine that.”

Democratic Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona said the mill rate is “critical” to the council’s deliberation on the budget.

“We have to understand what the mill rate is going to be when we’re voting on this budget, that’s critical,” Cardona said. “I cant see us voting on a budget without a known mill rate.”

The Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

Democratic Councilor Cathy Battista said she believes the council is on track to meet its deadlines and adopt a budget in May.

“I think there’s been a few bumps in the road, yes, and I think that’s because we have a new city manager and to me that’s to be expected,” Battista said. “That’s always a challenge, and new staff and losing staff. That has set the tone for some negative things, but I believe we’re overcoming everything.”

ltauss@record-journal.com 203-317-2231 Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ


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