Durham and Middlefield residents passed both their 2019-20 town budgets in respective annual town meetings Monday night.
About 40 residents passed the Board of Finance’s proposed budget Monday, but not before a motion was put forth to move a line item related to the new shared town planner position.
The plan is to share a town planner with the town of Durham, who would work 20 hours a week in both towns, aiding commissions such as planning and zoning and working as a zoning and wetlands enforcement officer.
Resident Mary Johnson proposed moving the appropriation of $60,000 for the position from the professional services line to the Planning and Zoning Commission instead, making the argument that the commission relies heavily on the advice of the town planner and should be the entity that hires the new one.
Board of Finance member Melissa Kowal said it made sense to keep the position under professional services because the new town planner will be used by more groups besides the Planning and Zoning Commission, such as the Inlands Wetlands and Watercourses Agency.
Likewise, First Selectman Edward Bailey said the decision to put the line item under professional services was based on legal counsel and the example of other towns in similar situations. He expects the Planning and Zoning Commission will be included in the hiring process.
After discussion, a paper ballot was taken and the motion failed 23-16.
Board of Finance Chairman Jim Irish said the budget vote, taken by voice, passed unanimously.
The 2019-20 budget totals $16.5 million, including about $11.6 million in education costs to Regional School District 13. With about $2.9 million in revenue, the new budget comes to about $13.6 million. The budget breaks down to show a decrease in municipal expenses, coming in at $4.9 million, and around $820,000 in capital expenses.
Next week the Board of Finance will meet to set the mill rate for the 2019-20 fiscal year at 33.47, a drop of 2 mills from the current rate.
A homeowner with a property assessed at $161,000 would have their taxes cut by about $326. A mill equals $1 in property tax per every $1,000 of a property's taxable value.
“The Board of Finance is happy to be able to offer the voters a significant reduction in the mill rate,” Irish said Tuesday.
The majority of some 200 residents voted in favor of the Board of Finance’s proposed 2019-20 budget of about $5.3 million in municipal expenses.
The budget, presented in April, calls for $7,335,884 in general government expenses, a $323,330 increase from current year. With $2,038,411 in “less state and local revenue,” the net town budget comes to $5,297,473. This year the town is also responsible for about $20 million in education costs to Regional School District 13.
The voice vote did include some opposition. Two residents spoke during public comment to express their disagreement with the town’s choice to increase the salaries of non-union employees at the same rate as union employees, and with the town’s ambulatory services funding.
Board of Finance Chairman Bob Donahue said the board was proud of what it brought forward to residents to adopt.
“This fiscal year has been a challenge ... but it’s also gone very well because of the fact that we've all worked together and we worked bi-partisan, which is something that is very unique right now to the situation that's going on in many different places,” Donahue said.
The mill rate is expected to be set at a stable 36.50 mills, which would have no affect on taxes.