There will be no tax increase in the coming fiscal year, if Mayor Mark Lauretti’s budget proposal stands.

Lauretti will be making his annual budget presentation to the Board of Aldermen on April 21 at 11:45 a.m.via livestream accessed on the city’s website.

His spending plan, which must be approved by the Aldermanic board, keeps taxes at their current level.

“I can’t raise taxes right now … people can’t afford it,” said Lauretti. Residents are facing economic hardships in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down schools and all other non-essential businesses until at least May 20, he said.

The city’s 2019-20 budget featured the first tax increase in a decade. Last year, the Board of Aldermen approved a $127,571,474 total budget, which set the mill rate at 22.42 mills, a 1.21 percent increase from the previous year’s mill rate.

“Raising taxes is off the table,” the mayor said. “People are going to have to do more with less, even the Board of Education.”

The Board of Education had proposed a $75,083,945 budget — an increase of $2,318,945, or 3.19 percent. The school budget request maintains present services with money set aside for a new pre-K teacher and curriculum writing.

Lauretti would not give any specific numbers, saying he wold release details during his budget presentation. But he said that he was pleased he waited three weeks before ultimately finalizing his budget so he could factor in the potential financial impact to the city of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial city budget plans called for increases for most city departments, but Lauretti said the weeks of shutdown have changed his stance.

“Each day that goes by, the financial situation does not improve,” said Lauretti. “At this point, it is hard to know what the tax collections will be over the first six months when we need to pay bills.”

Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order that requires all municipalities, through its legislative body, to choose one of two options for taxpayers — a deferment program or a low-interest rate program — for July tax collections on real estate, motor vehicles and personal property.

Lauretti said deferment — which would extend the deadline from July 1 to Oct. 1 without any interest — is not an option because the city “needs cash flow to pay bills.”

The low interest rate program, according to the state’s Office of Policy and Management, provides a reduction in the interest rate for delinquent taxes from 1.5 percent per month to 0.25 percent per month.

Taxes due on July 1 would still have a normal grace period until Aug. 3 without interest. Taxes paid from Aug. 4 through Oct. 2 would be subject to the lower interest rate. Any taxes already delinquent as of March 10, 2020, would be subject to the lower interest rate from April 1 to July 1.

Lauretti said the aldermen would vote on a tax option before the governor’s due date of April 25.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com