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I was just thinking about the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. It’s February, so the budget season is in full swing. I encourage all citizens to pay close attention as we proceed through the next few months.
Here are some important dates: The Board of Finance meeting on Feb. 19 (police deptartment budget workshop), the March 18 BOF meeting, the April 7 Public Hearing on the budget, the May 11 Town Meeting on the budget, and the budget referendum on May 19.
The budget consists of two parts: the town side (police, fire, library, public works, recreation, etc.) and the Board of Education. The current budget this year totals $103,785,950 ($49,195,637 on the town side and $54,590,313 for the BOE).
The initial proposal for the 20/21 Fiscal Year budgets $53,572,447 on the town side and $57,524,245 for the Board of Ed., for a total budget of – brace yourself — $111,096,692. This initial proposal is a spending increase of $7,310,742 over the current year.
First Selectman Freda has publicly promised that there will be no mill rate increase for the next budget. How can Mr. Freda keep his promise with this $7.3 million increase in proposed spending?
First, I predict that reductions in spending are likely; at least I hope so.
Secondly, there will be a significant increase in our tax revenue, primarily because Amazon is fully operational, and its personal business property is now on the Grand List.
Other economic development in town is also a factor, and once again, I would like to commend Mr. Freda for his tireless efforts to attract new enterprises to our town. But I’ve said it many times before, and I will say it again: new tax revenue should not equate to a spending craze.
Finally, as I stated at the Jan. 6 BOS budget workshop, I’m hopeful that money from the Debt Service Fund (created by the BOF last year and funded by bond premiums) will again be utilized to pay a portion of our debt obligation.
One other factor must be emphasized. This is a revaluation year, meaning your homes have new assessments. The town must do a reval every five years.
I hope you read that November letter from the assessor listing your new assessment. If your assessment increased, your taxes will go up even if the mill rate stays the same. Likewise, if your assessment decreased, your taxes will go down even if the mill rate stays the same.
Let me explain. The mill rate is currently 31.18. That means you pay $31.18 for every $1,000 of assessed value. If your house is assessed at $200,000 then you multiply 31.18 times 200 for an annual tax of $6,236.
That’s how it works. So pay close attention, folks, not only to the budget itself, but also to how your tax obligation will be impacted.
On another matter, I would like to comment on the Feb. 3 Town Meeting during which we approved $2 million in bonding for school security initiatives. While I fully support this enhancement of security, I was disappointed that estimates of recurring annual costs associated with this project were not available.
At the Town Meeting, several concerned citizens also questioned future costs, but no specifics were provided.
It is my hope that in the future, when citizens are asked to vote on a bonding issue, that full disclosure will be made available to enable folks to fully evaluate the long-term financial consequences of a given project.
Sally J. Buemi is a North Haven selectman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.