The on Wednesday set the town’s mill rate for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) at 23.37 mills, which represents a 4 percent hike in taxes over the current 22.47 mill rate. The new rate will take effect July 1.
The tax rate was set following Tuesday’s . The RTM reduced the budget approved by the Board of Finance in March by just over $1 million, decreasing the proposed mill rate by 0.13 mills.
According to Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller, a taxpayer with a home assessed at $435,000 (a market value of approximately $621,500) will pay $10,165 in FY13, $391 more than the current year. The RTM’s reduction to the budget passed by the Board of Finance will save that taxpayer $57.
Before voting on the mill rate presented by Hiller, some members of the Board of Finance shared their thoughts on the $850,000 cut to the town’s contingency fund passed at Tuesday’s RTM meeting -- a move that prompted financiers present to leave the before the budget was finalized.
Rob Bellitto, vice chairman of the Board of Finance, was not present Tuesday but said that when he heard about the vote, “I shook my head and asked myself, ‘What were they thinking?’”
A lot of the funds in contingency were earmarked to cover retroactive salary increases for the five labor contracts pending with the town, Bellitto said. He added that the Board of Finance worked to address concerns that prompted Moody’s to cast a negative outlook on the town’s AAA rating -- that included the deciding how much to add to contingency.
“The RTM took that work and torpedoed it,” Bellitto said. “They could have made more cuts to the Board of Education or to the nonprofit agencies.”
Fellow member Robert Stone said he was disappointed that in the weeks the Board of Finance took to deliberate the budget line by line, there was no hint at what the RTM might move to do to address the tax rate until a week before the budget vote when the , and again Tuesday with the decrease to the contingency.
“Meeting after meeting they didn’t come, didn’t hint to what they’re going to do,” Stone said. “They’re playing Russian roulette with the town’s bond rating.”
RTM member Michael Herley, R-1, spoke during public comment and asked the board if they could look into the assessment issues and appeals plaguing his constituents.
“Given we don’t have the facts, given we don’t have the background, given [the appeals] are pending a legal process, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that matter,” Chairman Tom Flynn said.
Stone said that, given his background in real estate, “those properties have been under assessed for years, so this is how you balance it.”
But the board members, Hiller, and First Selectman Michael Tetreau discussed the possibility of implementing a program so large tax increases could be phased in -- something Milford and Norwalk had executed, according to Hiller.
State statute dictates that such a program would have to be done on a town-wide level rather than on an individual basis, Hiller said.
RTM member Kenneth Lee, D-10, spoke before the board and said he empathized with residents looking to appeal their assessments – he said his taxes went up 24 percent -- but that “there are two different issues here: assessments, for which there is a process; and a budget that serves 60,000 residents.”
“We need to separate these two issues and give them each the respect and consideration they deserve.”