WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. fulfilled expectations by vetoing the town’s proposed $177 million budget on Friday, rejecting a Town Council attempt to use more of the town’s financial reserves to reduce property taxes slightly.
Dickinson, who authorized spending $6.4 million from the reserves, said he vetoed the budget because councilors took too much money from reserve funds in their budget. The council voted 6-3 on Tuesday to pass a budget that would use $1.5 million more in reserves to reduce the mill rate by 0.3 mills.
Dickinson called the $7.9 million appropriation “the most aggressive amount of reserves ever adopted as a component of the Town budget.”
“The prudent fiduciary standard of care does not support increasing dependence upon reserves for operating costs of government,” Dickinson wrote in a letter to the council on Friday.
Moody's Investors Service reduced Wallingford's credit rating from Aaa to Aa1 in 2019. Moody’s cited the town's two operating deficits in a row, which were caused by the town dipping into reserves instead of increasing them.
Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni, who voted against the council budget, and Councilor Jason Zandri, who voted in favor, said they were not surprised by the veto.
“We knew when we discussed the council budget at the last meeting that this was a very likely result,” Cervoni said.
“I am disappointed that we couldn’t get to the opportunity to provide a little tax relief,” Zandri said. “People [on the council] are making it evident that they don’t like it, but I don’t see anyone offering anything else for us to do, and that’s unfortunate as well.”
The council budget would have set a property tax rate at 28.52 mills — a decrease of .67 mills, or 2.3 percent. Yet the recent town-wide revaluation, which has increased many residents’ property values, might force taxes to increase anyway.
Dickinson also objected to Councilor Vincent Testa’s proposal, added to the council budget, to transfer money from the town-owned Electric Division’s payment in lieu of taxes to create a $1 million capital account. The account would help pay for repairs to Community Pool.
Councilor Christina Tatta proposed the mill rate decrease. She said that Dickinson’s argument about the possible reduction in the credit rating is unproven.
“The chances of the $1.5 million even being used, based on history, is highly unlikely. We were able to achieve a mill rate reduction without reducing any services,” Tatta said in a message. “What time better than now to give the taxpayers back their own money that is sitting in a savings account, unused?”
Dickinson won his first election in 1983, and has won every election since 1991 by at least 1,000 votes, according to town election records.
Under the Town Charter, the council has 10 days and must have seven votes to overturn Dickinson’s veto. If an override attempt fails, Dickinson’s original budget will go into effect when the 2021-22 fiscal year starts on July 1.
The council is tentatively scheduled to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m., Cervoni said.