The Board of Finance (BOF) voted 5-1 to add $122,000 back to the 2012-13 budget proposal at their last meeting, offsetting that with an addition of $200,000 to the projected revenue lines for collection of prior year taxes and supplemental taxes — new property tax that purchased or built after the year’s grand list is set.
The board also decided to use a more conservative number for projected uncollected taxes. Rather than projecting 99.1 percent collection, as was used for calculating the mill rate in the Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) budget, the BOF chose to use 98.86 percent, a figure more in line with the five-year average.
Because of these offsetting moves, the proposal raises the increase in spending over 2011-12 from 2.41 percent to 2.63 percent, however the increase to the mill rate would remain the same at 2 percent, bringing it from an adjusted 24.06 to 24.54.
After some deliberation, BOF member Jen Tomaino suggested restoring $36,300 to the municipal budget and $86,000 to the education budget. The motion gained the favor of five of the six board members, with new member Robin Appleby voting against.
The $36,300 for the town includes restoring $20,000 to the budget, , $3,000 to the audit line, which was under funded, and $1,600 to the to correct an error.
On the education side, the and requested that they increase the pension contribution for next year by $60,000, effectively decreasing the Board of Education’s (BOE) funding by $295,000.
After the deduction had been made, the BOE received word of a $109,000 savings in their insurance plans to help mitigate that decrease, bringing it down to $186,000.
“Along with the money we put back, that should be enough” to cover the BOE’s needs, Tomaino said in an interview. “That’s a number they think would work. It accommodates all the services we were hoping to provide in the original budget without increasing the tax rate.”
After consultation with interim Town Controller Jay Wahlberg, BOF Vice Chairman Irv Agard said he has a “fairly high degree of comfort” that the new revenue projections are viable.
“They’re very conservative,” he said, as with both lines, “The five-year average is just about the number we’re going with.”
With supplemental taxes, “back between the recessions [2003-2007] we were getting around $600,000 a year,” Agard said, with the current year on track to bring in $400,000.
“Southwest Connecticut is doing better than Connecticut in general” in terms of sale of new property — vehicles or land — and new construction — decks, swimming pools, additions — Agard noted, giving the BOF confidence to increase that revenue line from $300,000 to $400,000.
For the collection of prior year taxes, Agard said prior years have been in the low $400,000 range, prompting the BOF to add another $100,000 there to meet that level.
The board also considered adding another $50,000 to the revenue line for the Land Use Office. However, department members said Thursday that they were “unwilling to commit” to that number, Agard said.
Agard said he spoke with members of the BOE who were comfortable that a $100,000 decrease would not affect any of the “base or new programs.”
“In my mind, we got the tax rate increase at 2 percent and this budget is a service to the town [taxpayers] and the Board of Education,” he said.
Dissenting BOF member Appleby said he could not vote for a 2.63 percent increase.
“This could have been an easy year to have no increase if there was the political will,” Appleby said, as the town had considerable savings in health insurance plans, revenue from bond premiums and concessions from town and school unions. “I can’t go to 2.63 percent.”
“There are a lot of needs” in the town and schools, Appleby said, “But there are a lot of people hurting out there, too.”