I was just thinking about the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 21/22 which starts on July 1. I urge you to watch the April 6 Public Hearing and the April 21 Board of Finance meeting. Both are available on the town’s website.
Mr. Freda had been promising a no-tax-increase budget for quite some time – even before we knew the details of the federal funding we will be receiving under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The final version of the proposed budget includes $1,170,000 in ARPA funding, but without this federal money, there certainly would have been a significant tax increase. In fact, the initial budget presented at the April 6 Public Hearing, which did not include this ARPA funding, had a .47 mill rate increase.
You must watch the April 21 Board of Finance meeting to determine the final version of the 21/22 proposed budget. The BOF is recommending a total budget of $111,853,794, which is $3,162,640 higher than the current budget. The town side is $53,383,064 and the education side is $58,470,730.
In order to fund this proposed budget, the mill rate will be 30.71, down from the current 30.72. This equates to a 1/100th of a mill reduction. So if your house is assessed at $250,000, your taxes will go down by $2.50. Yes, two dollars and 50 cents, for the year. Don’t spend it all in one place.
I am opposed to this budget, and I urge you to attend the Budget Town Meeting on Monday, May 10, 7 p.m., at the high school auditorium. This will be an in-person meeting, with masks and social distancing required. This is the first in-person meeting since March of 2020, and there is lots of room at the auditorium, so please attend.
However, I understand folks may feel uneasy about attending, so watch it on NHTV.
I do not take opposition to a budget lightly. In fact, as a selectman, this is my eighth budget cycle, and only the third budget that I have opposed.
However, I think we can achieve a larger mill rate reduction than Mr. Freda’s 1/100th. I think we can reduce the mill rate down to about 30.22, which equates to half a mill from the current 30.72.
I suggest that we reduce the BOE increase by $200,000, which would still give them more than $900,000 over their current budget. My proposal will not result in any loss of staff or school programs.
Second, I would use $550,000 of the $1.17 million in ARPA funding we are receiving as a fund balance transfer in the 21/22 revenue budget. This would still leave over $650,000 to help defray costs in the current fiscal year.
Third, on the expenditure side, I would earmark $123,000 in public works equipment for municipal grant waivers (formerly known as MRSA). The BOF already did this for $275,000 in other equipment. Waivers are pretty easy to get for this kind of stuff. This enables us to purchase the equipment with money we already have in a special fund, which currently has about $2 million in it.
I would do a lease purchase for only one new fire engine, not the two currently in the budget. Also, the current proposed budget calls for the hiring of three new police officers. I propose we hire two new police officers, for now, and place them on the overnight shift when most break-ins occur. Then, in two years, we can re-evaluate the crime statistics.
I believe my proposed changes in revenue and spending reductions will get us close to a significant mill rate reduction. Folks are still struggling in this pandemic, and with the federal money, I think we can do better than 1/100th of a mill.
Please attend the Budget Town Meeting on May 10 and vote in the Budget Referendum on May 18.
Sally J. Buemi is a North Haven selectman.