Grand list growth has Lauretti eyeing Shelton tax rate cut

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti at the Derby-Shelton Memorial Day Parade on May 31 2021.

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti at the Derby-Shelton Memorial Day Parade on May 31 2021.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

SHELTON — An explosion of grand list growth has Mayor Mark Lauretti calling for a significant drop in the city’s mill rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Lauretti, at a joint meeting of the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, announced a proposed budget of $129,353,369 for next year. That is about $300,000 more than the current budget. Lauretti’s proposal also includes a mill rate of 17.47, or more than 4.5 mills less than this year.

“The reality is no one in the state is doing what we’re doing here,” Lauretti said during his 31st budget presentation. “Over the last 25 years, no one has held spending levels and the mill rate and still grew a city like we have here in Shelton.”

Lauretti cited the city’s “good quality of life and unmatched affordability” as the reason more companies are migrating in, “giving Shelton a distinct financial advantage, hence the grand list growth and increased tax revenues.”

The city’s 2021 net grand list stands at $5.99 billion, a jump of 22.45 percent, or more than $1 billion over 2020, according to Assessor William H. Gaffney III, who submitted the annual report to the mayor’s office in January.

The increase is largely due to property revaluations done this year. Lauretti said the additional tax collections will help to reduce the mill rate and help offset any increases for residential taxpayers.

“As in the past all city departments will receive a modest increase, mostly contractual obligations,” said Lauretti, who then praised department heads for maintaining tight budgets annually. “This has allowed the city to grow and create one of the state’s most stable and predictable environments there is. It is a service to all taxpayers.”

The mayor’s budget now goes before the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, which will hold hearings before providing its recommendation to the Board of Aldermen. The aldermen will also hold budget workshops before a final vote in May.

The largest portion of the city’s budget is the Board of Education. For the coming year, Lauretti proposed allocating the schools just over $75 million, a $1.5 million increase over the present budget but less than the school boards requested $76.8 million.

To maintain present staff and programs, school Finance Director Todd Heffelfinger has stated that the 2022-23 fiscal year budget would need to be $75.7 million, a $2.2 million increase from the present year and about $700,000 more than Lauretti recommended.

“I believe we are off to a very good start,” Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish said after Lauretti’s announcement. “As this is just the beginning of the budgetary season, I am hopeful that we will be successful in our efforts to negotiate a fair and equitable budget.”

Yolish said she was pleased that the mayor has recognized the work of her board and school administrators to stay on budget.

“We continue to be transparent in every line item and I believe the city officials know that,” Yolish said. “Additionally, (Lauretti) and BOA President (John) Anglace have established a bond of communication, clarity, and confidence with Superintendent (Ken) Saranich which is of key importance in this process.”

Lauretti, long criticized for not giving enough to the school system, touted the city schools, saying the annual graduation ceremony demonstrated the students’ success.

“More money, money. That is always the cry,” Lauretti said.

He added that the constant turnover in superintendents has been a major contributor when it comes not spending money wisely over the years. He stated that there are 1,500 fewer students in the school system since 2009, but the budget has increased $13 million in that time.

Lauretti went on to acknowledge the business growth in the city, focusing on the revitalization of downtown, which he says has experienced private investment not seen in more than 40 years.

He said people have gone from “complaining about abandoned properties, blighted areas, crime, environmental contamination to now complaining not enough parking,” he said. “Can you imagine? I think I will just let them complain.”

Lauretti credited committed public servants and the volunteer boards and commissions with turning downtown around.

“(They have) a vision to see, a faith to believe and a courage to do - they have, and it shows,” he said.