WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s proposed 2020-21 budget would raise property taxes by 1.06 percent, an increase of $57 in taxes for the average residential property owner.
The budget, released late Wednesday afternoon, would raise the mill rate by .31 mills, from 29.19 mills to 29.5 mills.
According to a budget summary, the average residential property parcel, assessed at $183,000, would generate $5,399 in taxes, up from the current $5,342.
One mill equals $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed home value.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic “will continue to have significant consequences” on health care, the economy and employment, the mayor's budget summary said.
Dickinson began reviewing department budget requests the first week of March.
“In two short weeks, all of our projections and expectations have been seriously altered,” he said in the budget summary. “This reality makes planning of a municipal budget extremely difficult.”
Here are six other things to know about Dickinson's proposal:
1. Total government spending, except education and utilities, would be $68,334,259, an increase of $2,609,043, or 3.97 percent. The 2019 town Grand List increased by 1.01 percent, which at the current mill rate raises revenue by $1.2 million.
2. Education spending would total $105,885,577, an increase of $2,423,715, or 2.34 percent. The Board of Education had requested a budget of $107,154,215, an increase of 3.57 percent.
Dickinson recommended that $1 million of the increase come from an appropriation from the fund balance, and that the BOE capital expenditure request of $459,600 be authorized for bonding.
3. The Electric, Water and Sewer divisions all anticipate steady revenue from sales, with no increase or actual decline.
The Electric Division budget assumes no rate increase. The cost of energy is lower than expected and capacity charges are declining. Operating expenses, after adjusting for purchase power costs, increase by $4,662, or .03 percent.
The Water Division budget forecasts no increase in the water rate, but the Sewer Division budget assumes a 6.73 percent rate increase on the sewer portion of the water bill for the typical customer. It represents a 3.46 percent increase on the total bill.
Projected sales revenue on the water side declines by 4.54 percent due to less than expected consumption by customers. As a result, $947,277 is appropriated from retained earnings, compared to $546,538 in the current budget. Operating expenses increase by 1.22 percent, though pending contract negotiations are not funded in the budget.
Sewer usage by customers declined by 2.65 percent. Usage revenue would be $289,590, or 4.5 percent, higher than the current budget.
4. Dickinson again recommended using reserves — $6.4 million — to offset the tax increase. The town's credit rating was reduced last year from Aaa to Aa1 due, in part, to reliance upon financial reserves to pay for expenses and loss of state grant revenue.
5. From the CRRA Distribution Fund, Dickinson recommended funding purchases including a $250,000 ambulance and a $200,000 snow plow truck. The budget funds 16 new EMT positions to the fire department, with salaries totaling $570,000 and benefits of approximately $200,000. Firefighter positions would be reduced by six.
6. The employee pension contribution would increase by $173,227 to 22.6 percent of payroll, which currently is 22.4 percent, due to the continued reductions of expected return on pension assets from 7.3 percent to 7.2 percent. The employee health insurance contribution would increase $826,151, or 11 percent.
The Town Council usually holds a public hearing and workshops throughout April to question department heads on their budgets. It’s yet to be determined whether these meetings would be held this year due to health concerns, according to the Town Clerk’s office.
Usually, the council can make amendments to Dickinson's budget before voting to adopt a 2020-21 budget in May. If the council does not adopt an amended budget, the mayor's proposal goes into effect automatically.
It’s unclear whether the Town Council would take advantage of Gov. Ned Lamont’s 30-day extension for all municipal budget deadlines.